Projects move forward in Moffat County
CRAIG — Discussions are underway to further develop recreational opportunities in Craig and Moffat County, with plans to seek additional partners and funding early in 2018.
A county team has been holding meetings to set priorities to partner on projects that need a little more help to become visitor ready, said Jessica Counts, Moffat County Pest Management manager and team leader.
On Monday, Dec. 18, members of the county team met with representatives from the Bureau of Land Management and Moffat County Tourism Association to gain buy-in on the following four projects.
• Off-highway vehicle mapping.
• An amphitheater at Loudy-Simpson Park.
• Improving river access at Loudy-Simpson Park.
• Trail expansion and improvement at Cedar Mountain BLM Special Recreation Management Area.
County proponents of each project provided status updates, steps for moving forward and what might be needed from MCTA and/or other partners.
“I think we are three or four meetings away from a final GPS version,” said County Natural Resource Director Jeff Comstock about developing a core map of public routes on and off county roads for visitors interested in motorized recreation.
One sticking point for has been the BLM travel management planning process.
“BLM hasn’t made a final decision, so we can’t declare them open,” said BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Dario Archuleta.
Final decisions about travel routes in BLM Travel Management Area 1 and 2 are pending cultural surveys to determine how to avoid or mitigate damage to archeological sites, a process that could take another year.
“I think we need to plow forward. If you’re not on the table, you’re on the menu,” said MCTA Acting Chair Tammy Thompson-Booker. “So, we should present to BLM. All they can do is say ‘no,’ but doing nothing accomplishes nothing.”
Another of the proposed projects would see two of the ball fields at Loudy-Simpson replaced with an amphitheater.
“We only have enough use to support two fields,” said Moffat County Office of Development Services Director Roy Tipton.
Existing infrastructure would allow development of restrooms and concessions, which Tipton estimates would cost about $700,000 to build. He thinks resources might be available from the state conservation trust fund and/or energy impact dollars, but he expressed concern about community reaction to the reduction in ball fields.
“I’d rather see two fields that are well-maintained rather than four falling apart,” said MCTA Board Member Shannon Moore.
The third project would also improve Loudy-Simpson Park by creating better access to the Yampa River, including opening about a mile of county-owned shoreline with new boat ramp and walking paths, and extending an access road.
The project is estimated to cost $350,000 to $500,000. Counts identified the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing is Fun program as a potential source of funding for a multi-year, multi-phased project that would focus on fishing access, but would also improve user-friendliness for boating, canoeing, tubing, walking and other day-use.
“These all seem doable, not pie in the sky. We’d be taking existing or underutilized assets and improve them,” Thompson-Booker said of the three county projects.
Archuleta spoke about a fourth idea to develop nearly 8 miles of new trails and improve existing trails to create around 14 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails on Cedar Mountain north of Craig.
“We’d like to work with the city and county to figure out how to connect the community with those trails along Moffat County Road 7,” Archuleta said. “It’s about getting the younger generation out there and promote tourism.”
After Cedar Mountain, the agency would like to see improvements to other recreational areas, such as Duffy Mountain and Little Yampa Canyon.
“These are multi-phase projects. We are not going to get it all tomorrow, but we have to be willing to stand up and do the work,” Thompson-Booker said.
Partnerships, coordination and collaboration were all seen as important to the ultimate success of each project.
“We really need to get together, start coordinating our efforts and pool our resources. We are much stronger if we work together and go together for funding,” Archuleta said.
The county team is expected to move forward and convene meetings with the city, college, user groups and potential funding partners.
“I think the ideas are great. I think most of them are low-hanging fruit,” Thompson-Booker said. “Now, it’s just finding some capital dollars and grants that would allow us to make it happen.”
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.