Our View: West Connector Trail boon to community | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: West Connector Trail boon to community

We were gratified last week to learn that the long-anticipated West Connector Trail is now open for business and is already enjoying plenty of use.

The 1.5-mile pedestrian/bicycle route, which links Routt County Road 42 and the Steamboat II, Heritage Park and Silver Spur subdivisions to the western terminus of Gloria Gossard Parkway, isn't fancy, but it affords residents of those outlying neighborhoods pedestrian and bicycle access to the downtown area while mitigating the potential hazards of walking or riding the shoulders of the frequently bustling U.S. Highway 40.

The project — made possible by the generous donation of temporary easements by Yampa Valley Electric Association, Steamboat 700 and Steamboat Victory, LLC — was the brainchild of Routt County Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby.

In announcing the project May 15, Hruby called the connector trail "a first step in recognizing the importance of a walk/bike route" linking western subdivisions with downtown. She went on to describe the trail as "an interim solution until the more complex core trail and U.S. 40 sidewalks are constructed."

After Routt County commissioners unanimously approved construction of the trail, Commissioner Cari Hermacinski added that, although the connector isn't permanent, it can be seen as a positive development that could lead to more lasting changes.

"I know it's temporary, and the easements could be revoked," Hermancinski said. "But once you get something like this going, and the community starts enjoying it, it might inspire the landowners to enjoy it too. It's not a lot of tax dollars, but I hope we'll continue to make improvements (like culverts) to the trail to make it more usable."

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We agree completely.

Steamboat is growing, and current indications suggest the residential expansions that must occur in order to accommodate these newcomers will likely happen west of city limits. This makes the already vital issue of connectivity between these neighborhoods and Steamboat proper even more important.

In our opinion, the West Connector Trail — by virtue of its utility, its immediate popularity and its utility to rural residents — should be maintained and improved.

We're not suggesting the property owners who generously granted the necessary easements should donate them into perpetuity, but perhaps the easements could be purchased if it can be demonstrated the trail is of value to the outlying communities and, by extension, to the city of Steamboat Springs as a whole.

To that end, we hope those who are using and enjoying the trail will tell City Hall that they value the trail and don't want to lose this newest enhancement to our community.

We also hope users will take to heart Hruby's admonition to respect the private property upon which the trail is located.

"The backcountry trail is on a temporary easement from the property owners and passes completely through private property," Hruby said. "Help keep this trail available by staying on the trail (including dogs)."

The West Connector Trail became a reality thanks to the cooperative efforts of community leaders and private interests, and its continued operation will depend largely upon the actions of those who use it.

At Issue

The new temporary trail linking the western city limits with three rural subdivisions is a valuable community asset

Our View

Given the likelihood of Steamboat’s continued westward growth, the West Connector Trail should be made permanent and improved