While the Brown Ranch Annexation Committee is in agreement on other parks, open space and trails, a regional park is still an issue where there isn't any agreement.
Finding space for a 46-acre regional park continues to be an issue where the Brown Ranch Annexation Committee cannot find agreement.
While there is agreement on other parks in the Brown Ranch — pocket, neighborhood and community level parks — the current development plan does not include the larger regional park that is required by city of Steamboat Springs’ parks plans, and the Housing Authority asserts if it was included it could lead to a steep loss of housing units.
But Steamboat Springs City Council has continued to insist on the regional park, which would serve residents throughout the community and not just at the Brown Ranch. While the housing authority has said the loss of housing in the current development plan would be significant, the city believes it was a mistake not to include the park in the initial planning.
“Our plans require this 46 acres, it should have been included from the beginning,” said Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby. “In turn to say we’re going to lose 500 units of housing, the city believes that (regional park) should have been included from the start.”
“The housing authority’s approach to Brown Ranch has been to solve more than our current housing crisis, which the city appreciates fully,” Cosby continued. “In turn that reduces the quality of life for those residents and it’s extremely important to the city to provide that equitable service level to all residents.”
The Brown Ranch does currently plan to add a roughly 12-acre park on the west side of the development near Routt County Road 42 that would include an indoor sports complex, often talked about as the Steamboat Sports Barn. The city is requesting the development plan be adjusted to add 34 acres to that park. If that is done, the housing authority argues that it would swallow the entirety of Neighborhood D, which would be the final area of the Brown Ranch to build out and includes about 500 units.
Council has pointed to so-called ghost blocks at the Brown Ranch, which are blocks that have not yet been planned for development and are meant to provide flexibility in the plan. Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley said there are fewer of these ghost blocks left in the plan as some have already been repurposed to increase space for other types of parks.
“I don’t see that there is any common ground here,” Peasley said, in regard to the regional park.
Other than in Neighborhood D, the park has been talked about in a couple other locations. The first is on land the city owns near the Steamboat Springs Airport, but Public Works Director Jon Snyder said since that land was purchased with funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, it likely could not be used for a park. This land may not have been good for park land anyway due to its proximity to the airport.
Another location talked about is in land outside the Urban Growth Boundary on the north side of the Brown Ranch, but a park here could be difficult for a few reasons.
Firstly, this land isn’t very flat and would require significant grading to accommodate fields for organized sports. Second, under the current plan, this area would only be accessible by traveling through a neighborhood, which raises significant traffic concerns as the park will likely be utilized by members of the community from beyond the Brown Ranch. Third, the Brown Ranch Steering Committee that guided the development plan strongly suggested this land be held for future housing needs and not be developed in a permanent way now.
The regional park could remain an outstanding issue beyond the annexation committee. The committee has decided to leave certain issues highlighted in red, meaning they may be saved to be dealt with at the council level after the annexation committee wraps up its work. Council’s representatives on the committee have insisted that a regional park is a firm ask from the city, as Emerald Park is already overtaxed.
“We want kids and the adults to be able to do, as you have said multiple times, to do everything as equitable as everyone else in the community,” said City Council President Robin Crossan. “You need to be a player in what that equitability is going to be for park space.”
Photo caption: The Brown Ranch plans to add an indoor recreation facility on the west side of the development, but the city is insisting this be extended to be 46-acres that would serve residents broadly. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)