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Steamboat Springs has been formally certified in the STAR Community Rating SystemTM (STAR). The city’s approved final score is 446.0, which qualifies Steamboat Springs as a Certified 4-STAR Community. Steamboat Springs is the 2nd community in Colorado and 49th nationwide to achieve certification from STAR Communities, a nonprofit organization that certifies sustainable communities. The other STAR-certified Colorado community is Fort Collins.
STAR is the nation’s leading framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing social, economic, and environmental performance measures. STAR helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. For instance, communities get credit for reductions in energy use or increased transportation access. STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a third-party review ensures accountability.
“We are excited for this 4-Star Rating from STAR Communities and look forward to improving in our sustainability efforts in the immediate and long term future,” said Gary Suiter, Steamboat Springs City Manager.
In March 2015, Steamboat Springs joined STAR Communities’ Leadership Program, which provides extensive staff support and services to a cohort of communities as they collect data, measure progress, and work towards STAR certification. This effort enabled the city to gather a baseline assessment of local sustainability progress, as well as compare best practices with other communities nationwide. Communities pursuing STAR certification accumulate points for their achievements that are used to determine their rating. There are three STAR certification levels: 3-STAR Community (200-399 points), 4-STAR Community (400-599 points), and 5-STAR (600+ points). The city received its final score of 446.0 points and the Certified 4-STAR Community Rating for national excellence in sustainability. Some highlights from the city’s application include:
• Built Environment: Steamboat Springs far exceeded the thresholds set by STAR in the Public Spaces objective; the city provides over 290 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, 98% of households are within a ½ mile walk to a public park, and 100% of households are within 3-miles of an off-road trail. • Economy & Jobs: The economy of Steamboat Springs has emerged strong after the recession. There were 51 new businesses created from 2011-2013 and a positive trend line in annual sales. The City scored 13/15 points in the Local Economy objective by demonstrating an increase in deposits at local banks and an increasing use of locally produced products. This work is supported by initiatives like the Yampa White River Region Regional Economic Development Plan (SET Plan), which was adopted in 2015.• Education, Arts & Community: Steamboat Springs scored well in Community Cohesion and that is reflected in a 2015 survey that showed a 11% increase in the sense of community from 2005-2015 and a 5% increase in neighborliness over the same timespan. The community also has easy access to community venues, with 97% of households located within a 1-mile walk of a venue.• Natural Systems: Steamboat Springs’ high scores in the Natural Systems goal area demonstrate the community’s commitment to protecting and enhancing its land, air, and water resources. Connectivity of critical habitat has increased by adding 2,736 acres of land to an existing 1,766 acres of protected land since 2000. The City received full credit in the Outdoor Air Quality and Water in the Environment objectives by showing that they meet or exceed the standards of quality set by the EPA. Key plans and reports such as the Steamboat Springs Area Open Space and Trails Master Plan, Yampa River Management Plan, and The Upper Yampa River Watershed Group State of the Watershed Report help to ensure these levels of quality are met and maintained.
Information and data was gathered for the certification application throughout 2015 with the assistance of dozens of city staff members, community partners, state agencies, local and regional governments, and private sector employers.
“Sustainable cities provide a healthy environment, support a strong economy, and continually improve the well-being of the community,” said Hilari Varnadore, Executive Director of STAR Communities. “The data and information that Steamboat Springs gathered through the process will help them continue to make improvements that benefit the whole community.” Hundreds of communities are actively using the STAR Community Rating System around the country, with more than 70 engaged in the certification process.
To learn more about the first 50 STAR Certified Communities, view the 50 STAR Certifications Report, released May 2016. To learn more about sustainability in Steamboat Springs, please visit the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council at www.yvsc.org.
STAR Communities works to evaluate, improve, and certify sustainable communities. The organization administers the STAR Community Rating System, the nation’s first framework and certification program for local sustainability. For more information, visit www.STARcommunities.org. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @STARCommunities.