Our View: A test for the community | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: A test for the community

As much as an active city of 10,000 residents can, Steamboat Springs will seemingly shut down this week. Between the end of the 2009-10 ski season and spring break for the Steamboat Springs School District, the week of April 18 will be predictably quiet here in Routt County and particularly Steamboat.

That quiet will continue to be magnified by the bad economy and the ongoing U.S. Highway 40 repaving project through the heart of downtown Steamboat. While the economy and the road project have tried the patience and spirit of many residents, neither will break us. Cooperation, collaboration, innovation and community mindedness will continue to play a significant role in our daily work and personal lives.

Many local businesses are entering the third year of a struggling local and national economy. The net effect is particularly painful in a town so reliant on the disposable income of vacationers and, to an extent, its own residents. We've already seen some businesses call it quits, and we fear more closings are inevitable during the next several months.

But we're also seeing creative approaches by local business owners refusing to let the economy ruin them. Backcountry Provisions is offering lunch deliveries during the construction season so folks don't have to go to its Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street location for sandwiches. Cantina Mexican restaurant is offering unique daily lunch specials in an effort to attract customers. The Steamboat Smokehouse is using spring break and the beginning of mud season to tackle some long-anticipated remodeling. The Tap House Sports Grill is capitalizing on its basement location as a place for folks to avoid the "noise, dust or smell" of the U.S. 40 construction. Mambo Italiano is offering daily dinner specials and discounts. And there are many other examples of local business creativity.

As a community, we'll need more of that as we edge closer to July 1, the date many folks have circled on their calendars as the first day — for a two-month period, at least — without U.S. 40 construction and the beginning of the height of summer tourist season.

But there are events to look forward to in the weeks leading up to the day we flip the calendar from June to July — such as the Yampa River Fest, Steamboat Marathon, the start of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series and the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup, to name a few. It's worth reminding residents that most of our lives don't stop between the seasons. Our bills and other financial obligations certainly don't.

It's also important that we, as a community, keep our eyes on the bigger picture. The end result of the U.S. 40 project will be a significant upgrade for downtown Steamboat. A new traffic signal at 11th Street, concrete bump-outs for safer pedestrian crossings and left-turn arrows at two key downtown intersections are substantial improvements.

We also hope the ongoing construction might play a hand in changing the culture of motorists and transportation in Steamboat. As many of us opt for our bikes and the Yampa River Core Trail instead of the highway during the next couple of months, perhaps those are changes that will persist beyond the completion of the project. Improved patience when behind the wheel and waving a fellow motorist, cyclist or pedestrian through are behaviors more consistent with our self-imposed image of Western friendliness than what we often actually exhibit here in Ski Town USA.

Whether we like it, our mettle is being tested on several fronts. The next 11 weeks will be a great exercise in collaboration and cooperation. As a community, we need one another now more than ever. We will rise to the challenge.