After public outcry, Yampa River Queen will stay afloat in some form
December 14, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Public comment saved the Queen.
As part of a compromise, Steamboat Springs' iconic riverboat-themed playground will live on in West Lincoln Park in the form of a shade structure that will host picnics and be accessible to people with disabilities.
The old playground elements from the 30-year-old structure will be removed so that new, more accessible playground equipment can be installed nearby.
More than 40 people showed up at a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Wednesday night to hear about the fate of the Yampa River Queen.
Many in the crowd wanted the city to chart a different course than the one that called for the removal of the steamboat structure to make way for something completely different.
While it isn't clear yet whether parts of the existing River Queen structure will be reused or taken away to make room for a brand new steamboat-themed amenity, a public outcry caused the Parks and Recreation Commission to unanimously cancel the previous plans to abandon ship.
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Community members who fought to save the riverboat now have seats at the table with a design committee that will work on the structure’s renovation or replacement.
"It really reminds us the community is really passionate about our culture, our history and our heritage, and it was great to see people involved in that," Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Alan Koermer said Thursday when asked what it was like to see all the public comment on the issue. "We haven't seen an outpouring like that since our discussions about the future of Rita Valentine Park."
The commission last month voted unanimously to replace the River Queen with a new artistic shade structure that resembled a hay or horse shed.
But after getting dozens of emails and a petition signed by more than 1,000 residents who wanted to "Save the Queen," the commission Wednesday night voted to instead have the city create a design committee that will come up with a plan to create a new steamboat-themed shade structure instead.
The plan still calls for new interactive musical instruments for children, as well as active play elements, such as boulders to climb on.
The design committee that will vet plans for how to continue the River Queen's legacy includes both members of the campaign that fought to save it as well as members of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.
The Save the Yampa River Queen group met Tuesday with the Arts Council leadership to come up with a compromise.
"I think the end result was very positive," Save the Yampa River Queen co-founder Meghan McNamara said. "It is hard to say what will happen now. In all likelihood, the Yampa River Queen will look different than it does now, which may make some people upset, but it will still look like a steamboat. I just hope there are a lot of really creative responses to the (request for proposals) so the design committee can choose the best option for the park."
The city has a $150,000 budget for the West Lincoln Park project, and work is scheduled to start sometime this summer or fall.
City Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson said the city can leave the request for proposals open-ended to let bidders decide whether the existing River Queen structure can be used in a new design or whether it would be better to start from scratch on a new riverboat structure.