Steamboat City Council, commissioners disagree on trail extension | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council, commissioners disagree on trail extension

Commissioners say they have higher priorities than extending the Core Trail

— Steamboat Springs City Council is interested in teaming with Routt County to build a trail to the Steamboat II and Silver Spur neighborhoods west of city limits. However, the county commissioners made clear Monday that they won't supply matching funds to any grants the city might land to help get a trail built in the near term.

Possible extension of the city's trail network was on the agenda Monday when the two groups of public officials met for a joint meeting at the Routt County Courthouse.

"I'm comfortable with leaving it on our bulletin board," Commissioner Doug Monger said about the trail project. "But we have so many things that we've cut during (these) economic times. Governmental resources (for building a trail) — at this time they don't even exist."

City Council member Walter Magill told the commissioners that the city attaches importance to extending a public trail to county residents in the neighborhoods beyond city limits and is hopeful that it can participate with the county on the project in the near future.

"We hope the commissioners share this goal," Magill said.

"What do you mean when you say you hope we share that goal?" Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak asked.

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"We hope you'd begin setting aside some money toward that goal," Magill responded.

"I seriously doubt that's going to happen," Stahoviak said. "I think the only way this is going to happen is a voter-approved source of new money."

Stahoviak added that a higher priority for the county is restoring its employees' salaries, which were cut in 2009.

Monger agreed, ranking employee compensation as the highest priority and the restoration of the county asphalt road-paving schedule in the budget process.

Commission Chairwoman Diane Mitsch Bush told the gathering that restoring employee salaries is the priority for her, too. But she added that she had previously met with City Engineer Janet Hruby and Steamboat II Metro District Manager Doug Baker to explore the possibilities for a northern extension of the city's trails system that would not follow the path of the Yampa River as the Yampa River Core Trail has done and might be more readily accomplished.

"It wouldn't replace the Core Trail on the river sometime in the future, but in terms of trying to get something done more quickly (it might be a good choice) so residents of Steamboat II and Heritage Park could have a trail that was safe, instead of trying to use Highway 40, which is unsafe I think," Mitsch Bush said.

Baker confirmed Monday that his board of directors, which already provides trails within its district, would consider maintaining a new soft-surface connecting trail.

After the meeting, Monger said he could envision the county using its heavy equipment, employees and perhaps gravel to provide an in-kind grant to help the trail project along.

Asked if the trail extension was a high enough priority for the city to go it alone, Magill said: "I don't think we can apply for grants outside the city. I guess we'll build a trail to our city limits."

However, City Attorney Tony Lettunich said he is unaware of any legal constraints that would prevent the city from pursuing trail building grants outside the city.

And there is precedent in Colorado for a municipality going as far as condemnation proceedings to build recreational amenities outside its boundaries.

After a large majority of its voters directed it to do so in 2002, the town of Telluride acquired 570 acres along the San Miguel River at its southern boundary in 2004 to create an open space park including, among other things, walking and bicycling trails. The state Legislature passed a law to prevent that action, but the town prevailed before the Colorado Supreme Court, which struck down the law in 2008.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

In other business

The Routt County Board of Commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council:

■ Voted unanimously to adopt a new four-year Human Services Plan to help a variety of local agencies ensure they are spending available funds in a concerted effort to meet community needs and goals. The elected officials heard there will be increased emphasis on helping families break the cycle of poverty.

■ Voted to return Johnny Sawyer, John Spezia and Rich Lowe to new terms on the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, as well as to appoint Kathi Meyer, a previous member, to the board.

■ Heard County Planning Director Chad Phillips say his office has six pending applications for oil and gas drilling permits waiting for their traffic plans to be approved. Of the six, four have returned the requested information.

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