Council not inclined to change Elk Avenue closing process

“Elk is pretty ideal”

by Mark Reaman

There will be no major changes to the policies guiding the closing of Elk Avenue for special events. On Monday, May 4, the Crested Butte Town Council discussed the protocol and philosophy of closing Elk and decided that for the most part, the status quo works pretty well. But they asked staff to give them a heads-up if trends changed and the town started getting a lot of requests to close the main thoroughfare during weekdays.

Town manager Todd Crossett ran the council through a PowerPoint presentation showing that last year Elk was closed most often between June and September. Whatever USA played a big role with parts of Elk closed before, during and after the event. That upset many downtown businesses.

“When you take into consideration things like the Farmers Market, there are portions of Elk closed every Sunday all summer long,” Crossett said. “For the most part, most of the events closing Elk are held every year, things like the Arts Festival and People’s Fair. Most of the requests to close Elk are locally generated and most are partial closures. ‘Whatever’ was unique. It was the first and probably last time an event fenced off Elk Avenue and prohibited some access. That event created far more disruption than other things we do.”

Crossett went through the pros and cons of closing Elk. He reminded the council that any request to close Elk Avenue comes before the council.

“It all seems to work pretty well,” said councilperson Skip Berkshire. “It seems like relocating events wouldn’t work. We need to do stuff on Elk that pushes people into the local businesses and not away from the businesses. Blocking off Elk is a cool deal most of the time.”

“Elk is pretty ideal,” said Crossett. “It’s the town’s main street but it’s not a highway like in a lot of other towns. It is visible from Highway 135. It’s accessible and it dead-ends. Speed is not a major issue. It’s as good as it gets.”

“It seems we have a pretty good balance right now with closing it down,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “Some things might be better moved. I think we need to look at moving Big Air on Elk to maybe Sixth and Elk because it is getting so cramped. But overall it works. The issue is really with new and major special events. But we can’t foresee those.”

“One big thing is to be careful with fencing,” said councilman Shaun Matusewicz. “People need to be free to flow up and down Elk.”

The council discussed the idea of fencing when a group closing Elk sells alcohol. In fact, the council asked staff to see if the proposed Alpenglow on Elk in August could eliminate fencing even with alcohol being sold. The staff will look into the matter. The council would love to eliminate the fencing constraints during such events.

“The balance is good,” said councilman Roland Mason. “It would be an issue if it happened not just on the weekends but during the week as well. That would put a lot of stress on the downtown businesses and even on people going to and from work.”

The council asked the staff to notify them ahead of time if such requests starting coming to the town administration. The council briefly talked about considering rules for closing Elk during events like commercial shoots, but they took no movement on the issue.

“What’s working is working,” summed up Mason. “Just keep us in the loop if things look to start changing.”

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