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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat Springs revisiting purchase of Slate Creek parkland near airport, Brown Ranch

Council considered buying the land last fall to use as a new regional park, but ultimately shelved the plan.

Steamboat Springs City Council met in executive session last week to direct city staff how to proceed in an effort to purchase 187 acres of parkland near the Steamboat Springs Airport and Brown Ranch — a parcel that council considered buying last fall to use as a new regional park.

City parks and recreation staff see an opportunity for a 46-acre regional park with a sports complex and other amenities, as well as 131 acres of open space on the parcel. This area of the city, referred to by parks staff as Slate Creek, scored second highest among 14 areas of interest on a newly developed scoring matrix meant to help guide new parkland acquisitions.

“We can envision a regional park in this area, 40 plus acres [that] could provide athletic fields, a trails system,” Rob Burdine, the city’s deputy parks and recreation director, told council last week. “A lot of excellent opportunities for an underserved region of town, as well as that future growth of Steamboat. This area can provide a lot of those amenities for us.”

Parkland was perhaps the most contentious aspect of negotiations to annex the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch property last year, with the city insisting until late in the process that it needed land for a regional park in the annexation agreement as the city’s parks are already heavily used. While council backed down from requiring the park at Brown Ranch, the city’s desire to add parkland continued.

The idea of purchasing the Slate Creek property for a regional park came before council in September, but was ultimately shelved in part because of the $5.25 million price tag.

Since then, parks staff devised a new parkland acquisition process that considers 14 different “bubbles” in and around Steamboat Spring. These bubbles, meant to identify general areas but not specific parcels of land, were then ranked based on a dozen different factors ranging from the potential for recreation features to the habitat value of a certain area. Areas reviewed extend from the south valley floor to the west of Steamboat II.

“We’re looking at wildlife habitat and migration corridors, but we are also looking areas for active recreation too,” said Matt Barnard, the city’s parks development manager. “If this is an area that we are ranking and it hits both of those, it’s really going to rank high.”

Caption: This table shows how each of the 14 different areas scored in the city's new Park Acquisition scoring matrix. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)

The scoring ranged from 99 for Copper Ridge at the high end to 42 for West Steamboat and South Walton on the low end. Barnard said while some areas ranked low on the scoring matrix, it didn’t mean the parks department would ignore opportunities to add parkland in those areas.

The Slate Creek area scored 92 in the matrix, receiving high marks because of habitat value, accessibility and the potential for active recreation features like a sports complex. Slate Creek is also considered an underserved part of town in terms of parkland and the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan calls for a regional park in this area.

Barnard said parks staff believe the parcel could include a 46-acre regional park, 131 acres of open space and another 10 acres used for road connections, trailheads and parking.

When council considered purchasing the land last year, city staff proposed using a mix of short-term rental tax revenues and money in the city’s general fund. Specifics on how the acquisition would be paid for this time was not discussed in public last week, but Barnard mentioned council has allocated $500,000 in “seed money” toward parkland acquisition and that staff are exploring potential grant opportunities.

Council is not scheduled to discuss buying the property on Tuesday but will receive a presentation about potential options to find dedicated funding for parks and recreation. The presentation is on a preliminary report from the Trust For Public Lands, which describes potential funding options and high-level election analysis.

This information hopes to inform a larger discussion among city council members regarding the city’s fiscal sustainability that is currently slated for a July work session.

Top Photo Caption: Steamboat Springs parks and recreation staff tour a parcel of land between the Steamboat Springs Airport and Brown Ranch. City Council met in executive session to discuss purchasing the property last week. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)


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