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  • Dylan Anderson

Parking or Skatepark? Routt County considering Hayden’s request to locate a skatepark on fairgrounds

The loss of parking during the Routt County Fair is the biggest concern as Commissioners work to get feedback from users across the county. Meetings are scheduled for Thursday and next week to get feedback.

A years-long effort to build a new skatepark in Hayden has plans that would locate the park on the Routt County Fairgrounds, but the Routt County Commissioners have not committed to allowing the project to proceed on the land.

While there were at least two commissioners seemingly in support of the skate park concept in general, and potentially two being comfortable with the fairgrounds location, each agreed a broader outreach effort was needed to understand what residents across the county think of the idea — particularly users of the fairgrounds during fair and beyond.

To that end, Commissioners will hold two special meetings designed to get that feedback, the first of which at 5:30 p.m. in Steamboat Springs on Thursday. A second meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 at the Exhibit Hall at the Fairgounds.

“I really do believe that this is a good project… It will bring people together, will keep our kids in a safer environment,” said Commissioner Tim Redmond, who lives in Hayden. “But, it is important that people feel there was a process, and there’s nothing worse than people feeling something was shoved down their throats.”

The local group Northwest Colorado Skate Dream has been pushing to replace Hayden’s existing skatepark for more than two years, as the current rendition could use an upgrade in their mind. The group approached the town and was encouraged to grow support for a new park, which they have done. In addition to the money raised by the group to help plan for a park, Hayden got $30,000 in a grant for planning and contributed an additional $20,000 from its own coffers.  

Since then, various locations have been explored including part of the fairgrounds that is adjacent to Hayden’s Dry Creek Park. While the area does have an identified future use in the fairgrounds master plan, it is largely used for parking and camping for the Routt County Fair currently.

Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said the town’s public outreach effort showed the ideal spot was as the fairgrounds, but Commissioner Sonja Macys noted that process was not county-wide. Macys said she wanted the county to host an outreach process similar to what they have done for changes at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and the propsed Regional Transportation Authority, each of which saw outreach meetings in multiple locations.

Macys even suggested holding a meeting about the Routt County Fairgrounds in Moffat County, as there are a lot of fairground users that live beyond the county line. Commissioners settled on two meetings — one on Thursday in their hearing room in Steamboat and another at the fairground exhibit hall on Dec. 5.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the parking lost if the skatepark is built is the main issue of concern.

The area of the proposed skatepark is often used for campers during the two weeks of the fair, and that area is not easily replaced. Hayden has proposed the old skatepark location (right across the street from the fairgrounds) could be used for parking with 40-50 spaces, but that doesn’t necessarily replace the camper parking. Commissioner Tim Corrigan and members of the fair board noted people who have been camping in that spot for decades are likely to take issue with putting a skate park there.

The fairgrounds are also working to host bigger, non-fair events in the future, events that may need this parking.

Members of the fair board spoke in public comment expressing their disagreement in placing a skatepark on the fairgrounds, feeling Hayden can find another spot that doesn’t consume areas that could be developed for future fair uses.

Hayden Mayor Ryan Banks said he wanted to make it clear that the idea of placing a skatepark at the fairgrounds should also not be seen as a lack of support for agriculture in Hayden.

“I look at those photos of the proposed skatepark and then the fairgrounds and the playgrounds and how that’s set up to be a hub of activity,” Banks said. “That’s what really gets us excited about this project.”

Corrigan said he really wanted to see the project happen, but was not necessarily married to placing it at the fairgrounds. He suggested the central question of outreach meetings should focus on whether there is a willingness in the community to add this amenity to the fairgrounds at all. If the answer to that question is ‘yes,’ then further negotiations with the town of Hayden would start to iron out exactly how things would work.

Corrigan emphasized that if it gets to that stage, the skatepark should be a true partnership between the County and Hayden and not an adversarial negotiation — a swipe at the city of Steamboat Springs and how the Brown Ranch annexation process progressed, which started with lots of talk of partnership that ultimately was hard to see happening.

“Then we start hammering out some type of agreement between the town and the county with all those details that have been raised,” Corrigan said. “When we have a negotiated agreement, then we go back out one more time for comment on that."

Thursday's meeting is scheduled for the Commissioner's Hearing Room at the Historic Routt County Courthouse at 5:30 p.m.


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