Trails Alliance and downtown stakeholders plan joint campaign for lodging tax | SteamboatToday.com

Trails Alliance and downtown stakeholders plan joint campaign for lodging tax

— The Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance and the proponents of a new promenade on Yampa Street will soon launch a unified campaign to promote their projects for the lodging tax.

Voters here will decide in November whether the city should spend millions of dollars of the tax revenue on both projects for the next decade.

If the ballot measure is approved, the tax revenue would be split evenly between the trails and the downtown amenity until the promenade received $900,000, likely after three years. The remainder of the funds up to $600,000 each year would be used on trail projects that range from an extension of the Yampa River Core Trail to dirt trails on Emerald Mountain.

"This is a phenomenal opportunity to do a lot of improvements and community enhancements," Bike Town USA President David Scully said Tuesday.

Scully is serving as the spokesman of the campaign committee that includes downtown stakeholders, members of the Trails Alliance and support from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

He said the campaign called Yes to 2A for Trails and Yampa River Park soon will be accepting financial contributions and launching a website.

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Bullet point No. 1 for the campaign is ensuring that voters know the lodging tax is not a new tax and that voting “yes” on 2A won't put a new financial burden on residents, Scully said.

"The second thing is this is a tax generated by lodging revenue and paid for by visitors who are coming to our community," he said.

The campaign then will focus on educating the public about the new amenities that will be supported by the tax.

The ballot language approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council last month was labeled as a compromise by the members who wanted to find a way to fund both of the top ideas that were vetted extensively for more than a year by a lodging tax committee.

The committee recommended that 90 percent of the tax go to the trails projects for a decade and that the rest go to reserves and capital needs at Haymaker Golf Course. But the council moved away from that recommendation by including funding for the promenade on the ballot.

Leading proponents of both proposals acknowledge neither side is getting all of the funding they first sought.

But both sides still see great potential from the slice of the lodging tax they can secure in November.

Chris Paoli, one of the planners of the Yampa River promenade, said the $900,000 commitment would go a long way toward purchasing a vacant lot at Seventh and Yampa streets and turning it into a park.

The parcel is a centerpiece of the plan to add a 16- to 24-foot-wide sidewalk on Yampa and provide more public access to the river.

"That is probably the one piece that has the highest sense of urgency," he said about the parcel. "We think it would benefit all of us."

He said the group is confident it could leverage other funding sources to complete the promenade.

On the trails side of the equation, the lodging tax could be used in the early years as matching funds for a grant worth more than $1 million that could help extend the Yampa River Core Trail to Legacy Ranch.

The entire plan submitted by the Trails Alliance includes a diverse portfolio of projects for multiple types of trail users.

The City Council has said a steering committee will be formed to oversee the distribution of the lodging tax on the projects.

Community members can learn more about the projects at http://www.yampariverpromenade.com and http://www.steamboatspringstrails.com.

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