Summer configuration of Elk Ave the culprit?
[ by Mark Reaman ]
The new parking program in Crested Butte continues to generate conversation. Several people spoke up about the program during an update to the town council at the July 19 meeting.
“The rollout was rough,” admitted community development director Troy Russ. “But we feel it is now meeting the technical goals of the program.”
Those goals included to open more parking spaces on Elk Avenue, reduce traffic and parking congestion in the Maroon and Sopris Avenue neighborhoods, have employees park in the public lots or on Maroon and Sopris, and funnel tourist traffic to the public parking lots. A total of 362 permits were distributed by town with 206 of them being for residents. An additional 65 parking permits were distributed by July 16 after data indicated spaces were available.
In a memo to council, Russ said the program appears to be fulfilling expectations for the program. But he said feedback of the program continues to be “mixed.”
Park Crested Butte customer experience manager Kyle Ottinger of the Interstate Parking Company, the company running the parking program, told the council that he was still hearing some concerns “but the community in general is starting to see the benefits.”
Resident Eric Davis reiterated his problems with the new program. “It is still unworkable in my neighborhood,” he said. “My house was built before the era of the automobile. The town is not enforcing it this summer, but they are saying I have to park on my property, which means I guess I’ll have to take out my fence and garden? It’s not fair. I feel anger at having an out-of-town entity having power over me and others with this new parking law.”
Mayor Jim Schmidt received a letter from a resident that lives on Maroon Avenue. “I have registered my vehicles, and I was ok with that. But the notion that I must call some disembodied governmental authority every time there is a visitor with a car coming over to my house is an unwarranted governmental intrusion into personal life,” the letter stated. “It is not appropriate to force taxpayers and full-time resident property owners—for that matter, lots of other folks as well—to call the government every time they have visitors. This needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.”
Resident Scott Fulkerson said he thinks the summer reconfiguration of Elk Avenue is a big factor. “The one-way Elk Avenue is the issue. The parking situation overall adds to the general angst the community is feeling. It stems from the one-way,” he said. “The businesses are taking up the parking and those bean bag tosses in parking spaces are a slap in the face. We all understood the situation when COVID was the issue, and everyone supported helping the businesses by having people outside and on the street. But that’s not the case this summer. Does the one-way Elk Avenue really make downtown more festive? We lost the Arts Festival on Elk because of it. Sidewalk seating was fine. This seems to be taking away from the festive atmosphere of town and adding to frustrations. It seems to be putting the tourists over residents.”
Art gallery owner Shaun Horne said he thought the one-way situation improved the flow of traffic. “That’s a positive but it is problematic that so many restaurant tables are taking up so much of the parking on Elk,” he said. “I agree it was good for the COVID scenario but now it tilts the balance for overall business. It is unfair to retail businesses.”
“Many residents feel their parking spaces have been given away to the restaurants,” agreed Davis.
Martha Keene said the flower boxes that are intended to slow people down as traffic calming devices are also not working. “People are just shooting the gauntlet as fast as they can,” she said. “And the boxes are getting hit. Over the last weekend one by my house was hit and the reflector came off, so it was out there without a way for people to see it at night and that is very dangerous. The bottom line is that I’m seeing people speeding like crazy.
“And as far as the parking regulations, I am watching my boss at Ryce have to move her car every two hours when it’s really busy because the First and Elk parking lot is full,” Keene continued. “It doesn’t work. It’s crazy.”
“It’s a work in progress and the town is trying to make it work for everyone,” said councilperson Jasmine Whelan. “With more developments being proposed around town, there will be more vehicles coming into town.”
Town staff will continue to monitor the summer parking situation and then come up with a plan for the winter. The ski season parking program will go into effect on December 15.