Trail maintenance endowment fund launches with $10k donation | SteamboatToday.com

Trail maintenance endowment fund launches with $10k donation

Smartwool employees work on a new section of the Hot Springs Trail.

— A new endowment fund in Steamboat Springs could help ensure miles and miles of new trails being constructed in the region stay in tip-top shape and free of user fees for years to come.

City officials and local land managers have made it clear they currently don’t have enough funds in their own budgets to take on the responsibility of maintaining the new trails being created with the backing of millions of dollars in lodging tax funds.

So they hope the endowment fund will generate at least $1 million in contributions in the next eight to 10 years.

The trail maintenance endowment fund recently was launched at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation with a $10,000 contribution from a private donor.

Chad Stewart, the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears district ranger for the Forest Service, was among the first to donate to the endowment fund.

He said in September the private fundraising effort would be “a way of doing business without having to charge user fees.”

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“Ten years from now, we don’t want to be left with a bunch of trails we cannot maintain,” Stewart said.

Many of the new trails likely to be built with the lodging tax funds are in the national forest on Buffalo and Rabbit Ears passes.

Nationwide in 2012, the Forest Service reportedly was able to perform maintenance on only 37 percent of its 158,000-mile trail system and estimated it had $314 million in backlogged maintenance.

Officials see the trail maintenance fund as an innovative and prudent way to ensure trails are properly maintained.

The fundraising also could take some of the maintenance burden off volunteer groups that spend many hours each year tending to the city’s existing trails.

“Lodging tax dollars are building these trails, but lodging tax dollars are not maintaining them,” Government Programs Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said. “We, as a community, can get behind the sustainability of these trails by making private contributions to this endowment fund to make sure this investment is sustained.”

While the fund is owned by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, spending decisions will be made by a five-member board that will have representation from the city, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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