Ron Roundtree: Bypass bad idea
October 3, 2007
Steamboat Springs — The proposal to cause a bypass around downtown by constructing a new roadway above Howelsen Hill is an incredibly bad idea. When proposed in the past, it has been discarded, and for good reason. Significant public funds and private donations have been contributed to the preservation of the land above the Yampa River to the southwest of Steamboat Springs, and with the ink barely dry on the Emerald Mountain Land Exchange, to violate that high ground open space and any existing conservation easements with a roadway would be a travesty.
Only recently the city has touted the achievement of the Emerald Mountain preservation as monumental, with two of our council members making speeches at the dedication ceremony about the significance of the project. Also, at the recent dedication of Gloria Gossard Park, Towny Anderson claimed, “When all the pieces of Emerald Mountain Park are put together, they make one of the more extensive community parks of its kind. It’s just a beautiful gift.”
Will these same people step up to protect what they say is so precious?
The results of every public survey in the last decade have made clear the No. 1 priority – preserve our natural areas and open space. To jeopardize all the work and commitment of so many to the preservation of open space would violate the public trust.
Additionally, the impact of broadcast lighting and noise on the whole Old Town basin is being ignored. Trucks ascending and descending the grades, spewing exhaust with chortling jake brakes, is a soothing thought. If we do not demonstrate responsible stewardship of our view corridors and open space, who will?
It is clear where John Fielding and Steve Elkins, architects of Howelsen bypass options, stand with regard to preserving open space and view corridors. Fielding is more concerned with buildings when, discussing other options, he says, “It is a shame we have to tear down a building.” And Elkins thinks building a road across our open and preserved lands will lead to a “more enjoyable lifestyle.” I wonder if either of them has ever been to Bend, Ore., another destination resort town, where they built a bypass around downtown through an industrial area only to find that it solved nothing. Like Steamboat, the bulk of traffic in town is heading to destinations in and around downtown. People from the west side of Steamboat who are going skiing may find the bypass useful, and if you live at the mountain and want to lunch in Hayden, you might find it useful.
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Many say they want Steamboat to remain unlike any other place. Towny Anderson recently said “control is key to managing growth.” I know, let’s build 2,500 new homes on the west side and, as part of our vision, build them all a quick way to get to Mount Werner across one of our most important and distinctive assets. This outrageous proposal must again be discarded and other means of easing downtown traffic explored. Increasing public transit, along with improving traffic flow through town, and not around it, is a better solution.
It is time for people who truly don’t want Steamboat to be like any other place to challenge their public leaders to take a stand and choose land preservation over perceived public convenience. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”