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  • Dylan Anderson

Yampa River access headlines list of recreation opportunities for Hayden

Group of CU students spent time studying what the future of outdoor recreation for Hayden could be and how it can help diversify the town’s economy.

Yampa River near Hayden.
Adding access to the Yampa River in Hayden was a top ask among residents in a study conducted by Masters of the Environment students from the University of Colorado. (Town of Hayden/Courtesy)

In March, a team of Masters of the Environment students from the University of Colorado asked Hayden residents what they hoped to see as a future headline in the newspaper.


“A river runs through it, and we finally have access to it,” was one of the responses.


That team of students recently partnered with the town to study recreation opportunities in Hayden and how outdoor recreation could contribute to economic development as the coal-fired power industry that has long been a significant source of revenue fades.


The CU Students did various exercises, held community forums and toured existing recreational assets to understand what potential there was for Hayden and what the community hopes to see in the future. They identified a number of potential improvements including a trail between the town and nearby Yampa River State Park, renovations at the Routt County fairgrounds and a community splash pad.


But the most desired asset the Hayden community is clamoring for, the students found, was access to the Yampa River close to town. To get that, the students recommended a coalition of stakeholders join forces.


“Many people are working on access and bringing everyone together would help unify efforts into a coordinated and more efficient strategy,” said Tori Manogue, one of the masters students.


The students drafted a report about these recreational opportunities and delivered that to the town earlier this week. While some recommendations include adding more short-term lodging to accommodate more tourism and better informational tools to showcase what Hayden has to offer, that needs to be carried out in a way that doesn’t threaten Hayden’s close community, the students concluded.


“The focus here was really developing outdoor rec in a way that didn’t risk the tight-knit community of Hayden,” said Joshua Corning, one of the students.


Recommendations included finding a sustainable funding source for improving facilities at the fairgrounds, developing an archery and shooting range and exploring options for a public marina at Elkhead Reservoir.


At the heart of the study was seeing how these recreational opportunities could help expand Hayden’s economy, both through tourism and by attracting innovative and entrepreneurial businesses related to recreation to the town. While there are many businesses that operate recreation services near Hayden, very few of them are actually based in the town.


The study also recommended the town to better connect its trails and sidewalks so residents are not required to walk on streets that sometimes feel unsafe.


The students found that there is a lot of information about recreational opportunities in town, but that they often aren’t centralized. In many cases, they are only in English as well, which serves as a barrier to those who only speak another language.


When creating their action plan, the students found that the town is working on several of their recommendations already. There are ongoing efforts to secure space for access to the river in town and officials are working with groups like Integrated Community to translate information into other languages.


Still, the students found that more work is ahead. Student Sarah Jensen said there was one quote from a community member in one of their workshops that summed up their time in Hayden well.


“Every weakness is a potential opportunity,” Jensen said.

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