Here we go. Here comes the pain…and the charm

It’s busy. It’s hot. It’s hard to believe the Fourth of July peak is really just about a week away. Like it or not, we are ready for summer season blastoff and that always comes with some pain…

The Crested Butte community development department is blunt about the “pain” that will come with the new parking management plan in the core area of town. Residents are wondering where to park their extra vehicles. Businesses are wondering where their employees can park near their jobs without getting a ticket for simply coming to work. Community development director Troy Russ has been very clear that any new parking management system brings an outcry from the public and there will be hurdles to a smooth implementation. But he says history indicates once people understand the system and the kinks are worked out with things like permits and parking fines, it will be a benefit to the overall community. Lord knows the council expressed some trepidation about the pilot program on Monday but they approved the plan with the expectation of flexibility to make changes as those hurdles get tripped. The clear expectation is that over the next couple weeks, locals will figure out how to work the system. Getting creative to beat “the system” has always been part of our local charm.

The Chamber of Commerce visitor forecast indicates the summer season clicks into high gear this week. It is officially predicting between 5,800 and 6,700 visitors will be here each night to spend some time in the North Valley. At least there will be an Independence Day parade for them and nice job to the Chamber for pulling that together pretty quickly. While we all understand July has become the month many of us trade lifestyle for filling the bank account to get through off-seasons, it is always a shock when it starts. I’ll bet a dime to a dollar the social media posts about crappy cell service will start showing up this weekend. Get ready to deal with dropped calls and text messages arriving hours after you hit send. But don’t forget that is part of our end-of-the-road charm.

The traffic has popped and the lines at the Crested Butte stop signs in the late afternoon are already starting to snake. Those easy left turns out of the Brush and Cement Creek subdivisions? They’re history for a bit. Add in the annual summer road rebuilding projects in Mt. Crested Butte and there is ample opportunity to sit in the car and enjoy our spectacular views.
The Crested Butte Conservation Corps is ready to roll and has already been busy. We’ll have a full report next week, but the expectation is that the backcountry drainages and trails will see new records in terms of number of people. They key is education and guiding newbies to the backcountry to pit toilets instead of the sagebrush at the trailhead. The CBCC has proven its worth to the community and part of that is through the charming interaction the corps has with the visitors who may need a helping hand in figuring out backcountry etiquette…like not pooping in the middle of the trail.

No one should get truly upset when a Suburban with white license plates stops at Third and Elk to unload the 15 people in the car. That’s just summer. The question would be why would a local choose to drive Elk during the dinner hour? That is just setting yourself up for pain.

Kudos to the town of CB for moving toward action meant to address the lack of workforce housing in the valley. I would again encourage both town councils to allow some RV and van camping on public property like the gravel pit in Crested Butte and the Rasta Lot or the tent campground parking lot in Mt. Crested Butte. They don’t have to set up a KOA camping experience but can relatively easily provide a short-term summer solution that is safe for those workers living out of their vehicles. That’s simple action to take in a crisis.

Anyway, we are moving into tourist time. It will be busy. It will stay hot. It will be a time when many lose their patience because pretty much every business is understaffed and every trailhead will not have enough parking spaces. But it will pass. There is always the good advice of leaving the people behind by going up another 1,000 feet in altitude.

During the really trying times, remember the end game. In theory the bank account will be filled up in the next eight weeks and the backcountry will start clearing out when school resumes in August. When feeling the frustration of too much, close your eyes while waiting in the traffic line and breathe in the idea of a sweet hike on an empty trail beneath the golden aspens. It is not that far away.
Here we go…

—Mark Reaman

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