Our View: Go ahead with trail project
December 24, 2011
The Routt County Board of Commissioners were wrong for being so quick to dismiss collaborating with the city on a project to extend the Yampa River Core Trail west of Steamboat Springs.
The county has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds in recent years — and similarly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money — on road and bridge projects in remote parts of the county where very few residents will ever travel. So how is it that a project to add pedestrian connectivity between some of the county's biggest neighborhoods and Steamboat doesn't merit similar consideration?
During a joint meeting of the City Council and Board of County Commissioners last week, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak essentially told the city she wasn't interested in setting aside any money that would help pay for an eventual trail extension.
Stahoviak and fellow commissioners Doug Monger and Diane Mitsch Bush agreed that restoring county employee salaries is their top priority as funds become available. We take no issue with the county's elected leaders placing significant importance on restoring staff pay previously cut during the economic downturn.
But the manner in which Stahoviak dismissed City Council member Walter Magill's request for county partnership was unnecessary. It also begged the question of whether Stahoviak and Monger need to be reminded that Steamboat Springs residents as well as those who live in Steamboat II, Heritage Park and Silver Spur are their constituents, too.
The Core Trail is one of Steamboat's greatest amenities, and the city's efforts to extend it to the east and west throughout the years have been commendable. Indeed, more connectivity is needed within city limits, particularly from the Riverside, West End Village and West Acres neighborhoods.
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Extending the trail west of city limits to the neighborhoods of Steamboat II, Heritage Park and Silver Spur and beyond is part of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. Those residential areas west of the city are key to our community's future ability to provide affordable housing for families and the workforce. Trail connectivity to the county's urban center of Steamboat Springs is an important amenity.
The project won't be easy or cheap — right-of-way acquisitions, route planning and engineering, trail construction and maintenance agreements are all part of the eventual process — but it will improve the quality of life and safety for many who call Steamboat Springs and Routt County home. Kudos to Diane Mitsch Bush for being the one commissioner to recognize the trail project's potential to positively impact the lives of thousands of residents and visitors. Her fellow commissioners should take her lead and re-engage the city in discussions on how to begin planning for joint ownership of the project.
In the meantime, the city should not allow itself to be discouraged by the reaction of the commissioners and should continue to press forward with trail extension projects within the city limits.