By Scott Franz

Courtesy of Steamboat Today

Tuesday November 5, 2013

Steamboat Springs – Voters in Steamboat Springs resoundingly have embraced the plan to spend millions of dollars of the city’s lodging tax on local trail projects and a new promenade on Yampa Street.

With the approval of 71 percent of city voters, the 1 percent tax paid by lodging guests will be dedicated to those uses for the next decade.

“I think it’s a great thing for our community, and it’s going to bring a lot of value to our visitors,” Bike Town USA Director Doug Davis said after the election results were tallied. “I’m happy and proud our groups worked so hard on this.”

Davis said cheers at Carl’s Tavern suddenly turned to a discussion of the work that must be done in the days, weeks and years to come.

Asked Monday what would happen next if the ballot initiative was approved, City Council President Bart Kounovsky said the council as soon as next week would start to discuss the formation of a possible steering committee or committees that would help oversee the distribution of the money.

Council still will have the ultimate authority over the distribution of the funds on the two projects.

In the short term, the tax dollars could be used to fund things such as an extension of the Yampa River Core Trail and trail projects on Emerald Mountain.

In the long term, the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance has outlined an extensive portfolio of projects that could be completed with the tax dollars.

Proponents of the Yampa Street promenade have said they plan to use the funding to acquire and convert into a park a vacant parcel near Seventh and Yampa streets.
The property is an important part of the plan to create pocket parks on the street and add a 16- to 24-foot-wide sidewalk.

The approval of the lodging tax spending marks the end of a more than yearlong quest to decide how to spend the lodging tax after it was done retiring debt on Haymaker Golf Course.

“We’re very excited about it,” said David Scully, spokesman of the Yes to 2A campaign committee that included downtown stakeholders, members of the Trails Alliance and support from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. “We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and get to work. The first step is to work and get that steering committee formed. After that, we’ll go through and prioritize the trails, and a lot of that depends on available grants.”

The Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance’s quest to secure the lodging tax money wasn’t always a smooth ride.

The city last year convened a lodging tax committee that vetted more than 30 proposals from the community for how to spend the dollars.

The ideas ranged from new public restrooms in town to the construction of a new community field house.
The trails projects quickly gained traction with the committee.

In the final hours of vetting, members were torn between sharing the revenue with the promenade proposal or going all in on the trails.

They decided to recommend only funding the trails.
But after wrestling with the choice for several weeks, the Steamboat Springs City Council, which has the ultimate authority over the tax, decided on the current ballot proposal that shares some of the revenue.

The city will split most of the tax revenue between the trails and the promenade until the promenade receives $900,000, likely after three years.

Then, the majority of the tax will be dedicated to trail projects with a small amount going to the marketing of the amenities and capital improvements at Haymaker Golf Course.

“It wasn’t one group that made this happen,” Davis said. “It was a collaboration of so many people. We’re excited, and we’re proud.”