Parks and Recreation Continues Discussion of Events, Commercial Use on Emerald

As Emerald Mountain continues to see increased use of its hiking and biking trails, the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission held its third discussion on the future of commercial recreation in the area on Wednesday.

While no final decision was made during the discussion, commission members asked parks and recreation staff to consider the feasibility of charging different fees for different uses, which would likely involve charging more. for one-off events than for local routine practices. It was also suggested to start defining areas where certain commercial uses would not be permitted and to consider the days and times when commercial uses would be permitted, potentially putting a limit on one-off special events, to ensure that residents always have access to the trails.

Several members of the commission shared different views on whether Emerald is currently seeing too much traffic. Commissioner Ben Berend said he thinks trail maintenance is a bigger issue than the number of people using them.

“It’s not the number of people on the trails, it’s how to maintain the trails with the numbers,” Berend said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily too crowded up there, but it’s really the maintenance that seems to be the hardest part of everything.”

Commissioner Sam Rush said she had heard numerous concerns from other community members that the trails were being overused by commercial groups, including local nonprofits such as the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and one-off races like the Emerald Mountain Epic.

“When we get feedback from people saying we saw 20 years of impact last year, you can say it’s part of the pandemic, but we need to address that user impact before next year.” , said Rush. “We can’t just postpone until next year, we have to say that there maybe some places these business groups are not allowed to go.”

Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said the city receives more requests for special event permits each year as the use of individual trails also continues to increase, which she says may put pressure on them. tough trails.

“I don’t think there is necessarily a huge problem now, but maybe we see it coming and we want to get ahead now,” said Cosby.

Rush also expressed concern that the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club is having too much of an impact on the trails, as it is the biggest user in the town of Howelsen Hill and Emerald.

“For many community members who are not involved with the Winter Sports Club, the impact of the Winter Sports Club on our trails is of little concern,” said Rush. “It doesn’t make us anti-child or anti-athlete, it just makes us aware of the impact the Winter Sports Club has on the slopes.”

Jon Nolting, associate executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said the club was working closely with the city to look after the trails, but he understood that some in the community were concerned the club was taking up too much space. .

“We’ll be looking at ideas to reduce our impact on the user experience, things like staggered start times so that we don’t have as much of an impact at the same time in the same trail areas,” Nolting said. “We want to be responsible users.

Commissioner Elizabeth Diamond said she was less concerned with a long-time local partner like the Winter Sports Club, and more concerned with the growing number of out-of-town or one-off events seeking to use the space .

“If we don’t have a system to handle these requests, that’s when we might be overwhelmed, especially by people who aren’t as good as partners or with whom we don’t have direct communication, ”said Diamond.

The committee will continue its discussions at the next regular meeting on November 10.

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