Steamboat invites public to help shape future of Emerald Mountain Park |

Steamboat invites public to help shape future of Emerald Mountain Park

Bo Randolph chugs up one of the final hills in a 2010 Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series event on Emerald Mountain. The city of Steamboat on Wednesday will kick off a public planning process for Emerald Mountain Park.

— The public this week will have a chance to help shape the future of a vast park on Emerald Mountain.

The city of Steamboat Springs on Wednesday night is hosting an open house to start soliciting feedback on the first master plan for Emerald Mountain Park, a 586-acre parcel acquired by the city in 2011.

City officials are hoping community members who already flock to the park to hike, bike or horseback ride will come share their thoughts on how the park should be developed in the future.

"Obviously, the master plan process is going to be directed by the public," Emerald Mountain Partnership President Dan Smilkstein said. "I really feel like this (park) is an open canvas to some extent."

The parcel is part of a greater area of land that offers outdoor enthusiasts access to more than 4,000 acres of public land, including miles of singletrack.

The city purchased what now is Emerald Mountain Park from Lyman Orton for $1.3 million, and the Emerald Mountain Partnership group signed a contract with the city to manage the property.

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Organizers of the open house say the master plan will help to determine such things as the future development of trails on the property, potential new public access in places other than Blackmer Drive and the potential for new Nordic trails in the winter, or even a new touring center.

The parcel currently hosts a number of singletrack trails that are utilized for competitive events such as the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series and the Steamboat Stinger.

It also is a popular destination for hiking and wildlife viewing.

"The number of community members who go up there on a regular basis is tremendous," Smilkstein said. "I don’t think you will find any recreational resource in our community that gets used as much as Emerald Mountain."

Chris Wilson, the director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department said the master planning will provide the public an exciting opportunity to help develop a long-term vision for the park.

He added that the planning process, which will involve the National Park Service and the planning firm SE Group, also will aim to balance the recreational uses on the property with other considerations, such as wildlife and environmental protection.

"Even if you never hike there or bike there, you drive by and you see it," Wilson said.

He added that funding for the planning process includes grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and the National Park Service.

Wednesday’s open house will be followed by several months of research and design. The city also will be responding to public comment on the park through the website, which is set to go live the day of the open house.

Recreational uses in the park, which is accessed now from Blackmer Drive and the Fairview neighborhood, will continue to be limited by the Yampa Valley Land Trust conservation easement on the property.

"We know it’s going to be a non-motorized trail-based recreation area," Smilkstein said. "What that constitutes and includes will be guided by the public."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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