Fly-in campground project at Steamboat airport stalled after legal turbulence |

Fly-in campground project at Steamboat airport stalled after legal turbulence

Scott Franz
Steamboat Today
A plane lands at Steamboat Springs Airport in 2013.
John F. Russell | Steamboat Today |

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs’ plan to build a new fly-in campground at its municipal airport has been grounded after a resident reminded the city its codes prohibit camping and campfires on all city property.

If the project is going to continue, it will now require the approval of the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Council members declined to weigh in on the issue Tuesday night, partly because their meeting was approaching the 11 p.m. hour and they have acknowledged they sometimes don’t make the best decisions late at night.

Earlier this month, airport manager Stacie Fain said the city was breaking ground on five new camping sites inside the southern fence line of Bob Adams Field. The campsites were set to feature pads for tents, picnic tables and fire rings.

Fain told Steamboat Today she thinks the campground will help the airport attract outdoorsy pilots who are already flying to remote airstrips in Montana, Utah and Idaho to camp in the backcountry.

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“I think pilots who want to do an overnighter and do a little hiking in town will be attracted to this sort of thing,” Fain said.

The city is proposing to pay for the campground out of the airport’s existing operating budget. Fain said the project will require just the purchase of fire rings and frames for picnic tables. The campground would be free for pilots, but it would not be open to the general public.

City Attorney Dan Foote informed the council of the legal issue surrounding the campground on Tuesday after a citizen brought it to his attention.

Section 10-87 of the city’s municipal code expressly prohibits overnight camping on all city property, except if it is done during a special event at Howelsen Hill with the approval of the city manager.

“No campfires shall be permitted at any time,” the code states.

Foote has informed the council that if it wants the campground project to continue, it should amend the city code to authorize it. He said another option would be to interpret the code to mean that it doesn’t apply to an organized campground operated by the city.

However, he wrote in a memo he thinks it would be preferable for the city’s own operations to “comply with the letter of the law.”

The council’s final option would be to simply follow the existing code and have the campground project terminated.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @scottfranz10.

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