New study will help city of Steamboat determine what kinds of trails to build to attract more tourists | SteamboatToday.com

New study will help city of Steamboat determine what kinds of trails to build to attract more tourists

Gretchen Sehler builds a new single-track trail on Buffalo Pass in 2016.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs plans to spend up to $20,000 to find out what kind of economic impact the several miles of new hiking and mountain bike trails being built around town are having on the city.

Upcoming interviews with trail users will also aim to find out who is using certain types of trails and what kinds of trails the city should fund in the coming years.

And when it's all done, the city could have an answer to a debate about what kinds of trails are attracting the most visitors to town.

The study of area trails comes after some of the city's elected officials have questioned whether the steeper and more technical trails being built on places such as Buffalo Pass are actually attracting more tourists to town as cycling advocates claim they are.

As recently as October, some city council members have asked whether it would be best to continue with the more advanced trails or focus more on in-town amenities such as the Yampa River Core Trail, which consistently scores as one of the most used and popular amenities in the city.

A 2016 Steamboat Springs Chamber summer intercept survey also was the subject of some controversy after it showed the percentage of visitors who said they biked while they were in town fell significantly in recent years.

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Some council members cited this survey when they called for a change in strategy in how the city was spending millions of dollars of its lodging tax revenue on new hiking and biking trails.

The data from the Chamber survey also led some city officials to suggest money would be better spent on easier trails.

“My reaction to (people calling for more difficult trails) was if you want to appeal to the tourist, you need flat,” city manager Gary Suiter said at the time. “Eighty percent of the people are going to want flat. I think (this Chamber survey) is a great statistic to look at and say ‘hmmmm, is that where we should be putting our money?'”

The Chamber survey did get pushback from several cycling advocates who noted the city had yet to build any of the more technical trails with the lodging tax money.

The new trails study should provide some objective answers to the questions council members have had about trail usage.

In a proposal the city just put out to bid, officials say they want to use a combination of trail counters as well as in-person interviews of trail users to find out more about who uses the trails.

"We are looking at all of the trails," government programs manager Winnie DelliQuadri said.  "That said, we have a lot of trails, so we will be working with the consultant to identify how to best go about the project with the goal to understand how the trails are being used, who is using them and what the economic impact is of different types of trail users."

DelliQuadri said the city would start gathering trail counts this summer and survey trail users on random days.

The city will use the data to help guide future spending decisions on area trails.

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