Planning looks at N. Routt recreation | SteamboatToday.com
Susan Cunningham

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Planning looks at N. Routt recreation

North Routt residents asked the county Planning Commission to put more teeth into a recreational plan for their area.

“This update plan all looks good,” said Jon Hawes, president of the Steamboat Lake Snow Club, during Thursday’s Routt County Regional Planning Commission meeting. “But what worries me … is I don’t see any teeth in it. … My question to the Planning Commission would be, what’s the next step and how are some of these things implemented?”

A roomful of North Routt residents attended the meeting to offer comments about the recreation and tourism chapter of the Upper Elk River Valley Community Plan. An update on the chapter began in late 2003.

The Planning Commission took no action on the updated chapter Thursday. It will discuss the chapter at its April 7 meeting, and then it could adopt the update at a meeting in North Routt that has yet to be scheduled.

A letter submitted Thursday night from Gail Garneau, a homeowner in Hahn’s Peak Village, called the plan’s action items “too general and nonspecific.”

She praised the update’s new goal of maintaining the quality of life for residents while providing recreational opportunities. But, such a goal can be accomplished only with “a bold plan that provides clear guidelines,” the letter stated.

One concern repeated several times was that snowmobiles are allowed to travel on a section of Routt County Road 129.

Sheriff John Warner said the section of the plan allowing that use is outdated. Originally, it allowed residents of Columbine to get supplies and gas during the winter when the road was not plowed. Now the road is plowed, so Warner said he would work with the county attorney to delete that section.

Another concern of many residents was that the Snow Club grooms an area next to C.R. 129 in the county’s right of way. Lyman Fancher, who owns Columbine Cabins with his wife, told the Planning Commission he was concerned about the safety of snowmobiles on that trail.

“At high speed, an out-of-control machine could easily veer into or onto oncoming traffic,” he said.

Resident Ted Varouxakis said stopping the grooming would stop noise, odor, parking, trespassing and safety issues associated with the snowmobile usage. He presented a petition to stop the grooming signed by owners of eight properties in the area.

Originally, the update of the recreation chapter paralleled a U.S. Forest Service effort to update its own winter recreation management plan for North Routt County. The Forest Service had to postpone its project because it didn’t have enough funding.

Rachel Kennon, recreation program manager for the Routt National Forest, said a timeline has yet to be established for the study. The county, Forest Service and Colorado State Parks have applied for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to complete the plan, which could be awarded in mid-March. The Forest Service is committed to studying recreation in the area, she said.

“We realize there are issues up there that need to be dealt with now, not later,” Kennon said about the importance of coming up with a plan soon.

Comments at the meeting marked one of the first times many North Routt residents and users showed interest in the update, Planning Commissioner Fred Nichols said.