Yampa River Queen refuses to sink
May 17, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter came to the May 15 city council meeting prepared to deep-six the Yampa River Queen playground structure as soon as this month. But council members Lisel Petis and Sonja Macy tossed the relic a life preserver.
Suiter began his regular report to City Council saying, "I'd like to hear your opinions on the removal of the River Queen. Our insurance company will be here in June for their annual audit of our risk and safety practices, and for the third year in a row, we expect to be cited. This will be fifth year we'll be cited for the condition of the River Queen.
"We think it's important to have a public discussion about this,” Suiter added. “Therefore we've prepared a removal plan for the River Queen. We have staff lined up to do this. We could do this before Memorial Day or we could wait until after Art in the Park is held and do it after Aug. 5."
"I'm confused," Petis said. "During the discussion of the safety of the structure, we were told it is fine, so I'm confused … we left off saying we're not going to tear it down."
"I do know it's ADA noncompliant," Suiter said. "I don't think it's at risk of falling down."
Macys said she was concerned about deciding to remove the River Queen without more public notice.
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"I have an issue with doing this in the context of the city manager's report," she said. "It really could be perceived as a really sneaky thing to do without having it on the agenda. I know that is not the intention, but this has been a really hot topic in our community."
There was public outcry in 2017 over the possibility of replacing the aging River Queen in West Lincoln Park with an informational public art piece.
As a result, the city decided late last year to pursue plans for a modernized version of the 30-year-old Yampa River Queen after more than 1,000 people joined a "Save the Queen" campaign. The plan was to build a new shade structure with a riverboat theme along with interactive musical instruments nearby.
However, there were no responses in late winter to a formal city request for designers to produce blueprints for the project, putting the issue in limbo.
Suiter's plan for the demolition of the replica includes the participation of the fire department and the street department in taking down the wood and sheet metal structure. There are tentative plans to work with a sheet metal recycling firm for the removal of the paddle wheel and the smokestacks. But the city manager never got that far in his oral presentation.
“I’m just trying to avoid spending more money on this,” Suiter said.