Steamboat Chamber Seeks City and County Assistance for Destination Management Master Plan

Bill Hibbard tries his luck fishing along the snowy banks of the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. The Steamboat Springs Chamber has asked the city and county to help fund a plan destination management director, who would look for ways to mitigate the impacts of tourism on the region’s natural resources.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot and Today

The Steamboat Springs Chamber has asked the City of Steamboat and Routt County for funding and support to develop a county-wide master plan outlining the future of destination management.

At a joint city-county meeting on Monday, Jan. 31, Chamber CEO Kara Stoller did not provide a specific price or commitment for the project, but said the chamber was asking a consultant to take 10-12 months to study the county and assess its destination management needs.

Although it doesn’t have an exact cost, the city of Jackson, Wyoming, did a similar project and spent about $200,000, which Stoller said would be similar to Routt County’s needs.

Stoller defined destination management as “the intersection of social, economic and environmental stewardship,” which she and other presenters say has become desperately needed since the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more visitors and of permanent residents in Routt County to take advantage of its outdoor access.

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council executive director Michelle Stewart, who presented alongside Stoller and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., sustainability director Sarah Jones, said destination management would be used primarily to mitigate impacts on the Yampa River, Medicine Bowe-Routt National Forest, and other outdoor hotspots in the area.

Those natural features that make Routt County an attractive destination, Stewart said, have been “loved to death.”

“What we have is an opportunity to anticipate conditions where there is increased use and footfall of venues unprepared and a plan to manage that,” Stewart said. “How can we learn from this and work on the management of our areas? »

Stewart said climate change and its negative impacts have already taken their toll on the river and forests, which is why teaching about sustainability is crucial for the region.

“It gives visitors, second home owners and people who have come to our area over the past few years the opportunity to be sustainable,” Stewart said. “We really want to make sure that tourism continues to add value while reducing environmental impacts.”

Steamboat Springs gave the chamber $700,000 in its 2022 budget, including 75% for destination management measures, such as no-trace signs, outdoor know-before-you-go campaigns and reminders not to litter. Yampa river.

Because the city has already donated money to the chamber, some city council members asked how funding for this study would differ from the $700,000. In response, Stoller said the money should go to ongoing actions, while future funding will go specifically to support the study.

“The city has done a great job of getting messages out about how we want to take care of our river,” Stoller said. “The goal of a master plan like this would be to get us all speaking the same language.”

The three presenters also told council members and county commissioners that they were asking for the funding and the initiative to come from government bodies – rather than private entities – for a reason.

“We want it to be neutral, and if it’s coming from the chamber, or if it looks like it’s coming from Ski Corp, that might be seen as a bit more subjective,” Jones said.

The commissioners said they wanted to explore the idea further, but felt they did not have enough information on Monday to fully commit resources.

“I still don’t know exactly what we’re trying to achieve here,” Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “Usually the answer to the question is that I’m in favor of taking a look at it, but the devil is in the details.”

Commissioners Tim Redmond and Beth Melton felt the same way, and Redmond suggested inviting state and federal partners to the discussion, since much of the destination area is on land they manage.

“I just wonder if we’re missing a few people at the table,” Redmond said.

The commissioners agreed to continue the discussion during the next working sessions, in the presence of Stoller to answer questions. Council Speaker Robin Crossan said the city would do the same.

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