Trails projects poised to earn backing of lucrative lodging tax revenue
April 17, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance’s plan to transform the city into a world-class biking and hiking destination is poised to get a big boost from Steamboat’s lucrative lodging tax.
The committee that has spent the past three months vetting dozens of applications for the tax revenue agreed Wednesday to recommend the alliance’s sweeping trails projects receive 90 percent, or an estimated $600,000, of the tax revenue annually for the next decade.
The remaining 10 percent would be split between capital improvements at Haymaker Golf Course and a reserve fund.
The committee also will propose that if the tax generates more than $650,000 in a given year, the excess revenue will go into the reserve fund.
The Steamboat Springs City Council will weigh the recommendation next month.
If the plan also is endorsed by the council, it is expected voters here in November will be asked to approve committing the funds to the projects throughout the next decade.
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"This potential revenue source is a game changer for the community," Trails Alliance representative Grant Fenton said after the committee announced the recommendation. "It will open up a lot of opportunities to leverage this revenue stream to make the entire community a world-class cycling destination."
The group outlined 46 trail projects that span from the construction of a signature 20-mile, multiuse Walton Rim Trail to extending the Yampa River Core Trail.
The lodging tax committee will ask the City Council to form a committee to prioritize the projects and oversee how they are funded.
The Trails Alliance was one of three final proposals left in contention for the lodging tax revenue that historically has generated $600,000 to $800,000 annually.
For much of Wednesday’s meeting, the committee wrestled with the choice of committing nearly all of the tax revenue to the trails projects or finding a way to also fund the Downtown Revitalization Committee’s plan to build a Yampa River Park and promenade along Yampa Street.
The promenade proposal universally was praised by committee members, who saw it as an enticing downtown amenity.
And for much of the final meeting, the six-member committee was split evenly between funding both projects at reduced amounts or going all in on the trails.
At one point, some committee members entertained an option of letting City Council choose between the two proposals.
"After some painful thought, I’m reaching the conclusion we’ve got to go all in on one of these projects and do it well," committee Chairman Larry Mashaw said late in the meeting.
A majority of other committee members also agreed it would be better to not split the funding between two proposals.
Wednesday’s meeting marked the end of the committee’s extensive public process to identify the next beneficiary of the tax revenue that is set to free up next year.
It currently is being used to retire debt on Haymaker Golf Course.
In July, the city received nearly 40 ideas for how to spend the tax that ranged from installing more public restrooms in Steamboat to the creating a one-hour TV special on the history of Howelsen Hill and Steamboat Ski Area.
Members of the lodging tax committee said Wednesday that the investment in the trails projects had the greatest potential to bring more visitors to Steamboat and extend guest stays.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com