Our View: A creative way to help Howelsen Hill | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: A creative way to help Howelsen Hill

Thank goodness for the lottery, especially during difficult economic times like these.

The city of Steamboat Springs received final approval last week from Great Outdoors Colorado on $1.5 million in grants to kick-start Phase 3 of improvements at Howelsen Hill as well as finalize the purchase of 580 acres of land from Lyman Orton.

GOCo, created through a citizens initiative and approved by state voters in 1992, uses a portion of lottery proceeds to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage parks, rivers, trails and other open spaces.

Given last week's windfall for Steamboat, residents and officials ought to feel as though we won the lottery.

Of the $1.5 million, $900,000 are for two Howelsen Hill-specific projects — the construction of a K38 ski jump that can be used year-round and lighting improvements that will allow young skiers and riders to use more of Howelsen's features into the evening.

The jump and the lights make up a significant portion of planned Howelsen Hill upgrades. A committee of dedicated residents has been working in earnest during the past year to spearhead the Howelsen Hill Centennial Campaign, and at the heart of their efforts this year is raising the funds to complete Phase 3 work.

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Combined, the Phase 3 projects will cost an estimated $2.3 million. That includes $1.5 million for the K38 jump, $350,000 for lighting, $400,000 for expanded snowmaking and $50,000 for a new magic carpet for beginner skiers.

Including the $900,000 in recently awarded GOCo grants, the Centennial Campaign has raised $200,000 in private donations (with a goal of $550,000), $250,000 allocated from the city's surplus 2009 revenues and $80,000 from the city's Howelsen Hill capital improvement fund. That puts the fundraising effort at a little more than $1.4 million.

It's a worthy effort, no doubt. Howelsen Hill is as integral a part of Steamboat's history and culture as any other city feature, man made or otherwise.

During winter, it's the longest continuously operating ski area west of the Mississippi River and home to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, a storied and community-minded organization that provides winter ski and snowboard programs to nearly 1,000 children and teens.

During spring, summer and fall, it's home to an extensive network of biking, hiking and horseback trails; it is the site of a year-round ski jump; and it is home to Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, ice arena, baseball and softball fields, the Howler Alpine slide, a BMX bike park, a skate park, basketball hoops, a playground, tennis courts and volleyball courts.

Howelsen Hill is uniquely Steamboat and sets us apart from other mountain resort communities. We support the efforts of the Centennial Campaign and the city of Steamboat Springs to continue to modernize and improve the multiuse downtown facility.

But we also recognize that in extremely difficult economic times for so many residents and businesses, digging deep for Howelsen Hill may not rise to the same level of importance as assisting the many health and human services organizations struggling to keep up with skyrocketing local demand.

Fortunately, there's a way for residents not able to financially contribute to Howelsen at this time to still generate a significant amount of money for the campaign. The Howelsen Hill Centennial Campaign made the cut for Pepsi's Refresh Everything initiative for December. We urge people to support the project by visiting http://www.refresheverything.com/steamboat and voting daily. Supporters also can text 104707 to 73774 daily to vote for Steamboat. If Steamboat finishes December in the top two, it will win $250,000 for the Howelsen Hill campaign.

Our ski heritage helps to define Steamboat Springs, and Howelsen Hill stands as the historic centerpiece of recreational skiing in Routt County. Efforts to ensure that the legacy of Howelsen Hill lives on for future generations of residents and visitors are certainly worthwhile.

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