Our View: Bike Summit worth funding | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Bike Summit worth funding

— A group of dedicated volunteers has been working for nine months to lay the groundwork for future efforts to make Steamboat Springs and Routt County a premier cycling destination.

We certainly have a long way to go, and this movement still is in its infancy. Long-term success largely will be determined by the community's willingness to embrace the cycling initiative and, eventually, to help fund it.

On Tuesday, members of the Bike Town USA task force will present to the City Council an update about their progress toward "promoting economic development, lifestyle enhancement and tourism through cycling." They'll also ask the city to contribute $18,000 toward an October Bike Summit. Given the potential for cycling to be a major draw to Steamboat Springs, the council should approve the task force's funding request.

It's not an easy time to solicit money from a city and an economy still reeling from the recession. But the Bike Town USA initiative is much more than a feel-good movement about making Steamboat Springs and greater Routt County a place where cycling is easy and encouraged. To that end, the group already has raised more than $10,000 to support its efforts and has plans to raise substantially more.

Throughout the years, this community has gradually moved away from an economy primarily dependent on winter tourism to one that supports year-round jobs and visitors. That movement has allowed young families to plant roots here, and a more diverse economy to thrive — particularly in better times. But with annual angst about Triple Crown tournaments and the constant need to identify and promote events that drive weekend traffic in spring, summer and fall, we long have struggled to find that non-winter identity.

We agree with the Bike Town USA task force that cycling can be that identity, and more important, can be a significant economic driver for local businesses, as well as the city of Steamboat Springs. And it can do so in a way that fits nicely with our existing active, outdoor lifestyle. Any casual observer can see that cycling in this community has exploded in recent years, and it's been an organic movement. It makes sense to plan for continued growth and to turn that growth into economic success for all sectors of the community.

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It's also a quality of life issue, as the group works to connect trail systems to, among other things, provide safe passage for local children to bike to schools, parks and elsewhere in the community. That connectivity is sorely lacking.

The task force is composed of representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Routt County Riders, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., Colorado Division of Wildlife, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council and bicycle manufacturers and retailers. The team is in the midst of assembling detailed reports examining existing cycling conditions, needs assessment, benefit analysis, marketing and branding, public relations, funding and implementation.

With hundreds of hours already invested, it's time for the heavy lifting to begin. That starts with the hiring of a full-time administrator to generate funding requests, including grant opportunities, and organize the October Bike Summit.

The summit will provide the first formal opportunity for the task force to present its plans to the community and gather feedback. Presentations by leading cycling experts also are planned for the summit. A regional draw means Steamboat could benefit from networking with other knowledgeable professionals from other resorts and cities.

We're encouraged by the substantial efforts of the task force thus far, and we think it's in the long-term interests of the community at large to provide some seed money for a larger outreach and input-gathering process. The City Council can send a strong message of support Tuesday by providing that funding.

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