Look for the blue and white signs
[ By Kendra Walker ]
Ever notice the wheelchair ramp behind the Stash? How about the stair chairs to Thrive Yoga? Who knew we had multiple elevators in town, including at the Mallardi, Public House and the old Third Bowl location at Second and Elk? Due to the historic nature of many of Crested Butte’s most beloved buildings, accessibility is not always the easiest thing in this town. However, there are still many Crested Butte businesses with accessible entrances even when not in plain sight. The Adaptive Sports Center and the town of Crested Butte are working together to help point out those accessible entrances to residents and visitors enjoying the commercial district of town with a new accessible signs initiative.
“This was a joint initiative that started pre-COVID between town and Adaptive to improve the accessibility of town,” said Adaptive Sports Center business coordinator and impact research coordinator Kurt Schrammel. “It’s not always easy to do with all the historic buildings here and it’s a challenging place to get around in the winter. The groups that participate in Adaptive’s programs often go out to restaurants in town, and we also have adaptive individuals in the community,” he said. “It’s not the most accessible town but I also understand with the historic nature of the town it’s not always an easy fix to make things more accessible.”
The initiative started out with creating more accessible parking places, including over by the tennis courts and on Third and Elk. Deanna Banker, whose husband works for Adaptive and who Schrammel said is versed in accessibility issues, was involved in getting the accessible parking signs up in town. “Deanna helped me tremendously throughout the entirety of this project,” he said.
Banker and Schrammel then turned to the core business district. “We went down most of all the businesses on Elk and we did a full analysis of every business,” said Schrammel. “We walked through all the businesses with a tape measure, measuring door widths, heights of toilet seats, etc. We looked at everything from how accessible the restrooms are, to how wide are the spaces between clothing racks. We really got a good picture of each business’ layout and got a glimpse of what the accessibility is like in town.”
Schrammel said they found some businesses and town offices that have an accessible entrance, but the access isn’t noticeable from the street or the main entrance of the building.
“Our analysis indicated there were nine businesses or buildings with ‘low hanging fruit’ fixes,” he said. “They have accessible entrances already, they just aren’t always obvious. Maybe they are in the back through the alleyway or on the side of the building.”
The nine buildings include Crested Butte Town Hall, the Mallardi Theatre, Paragon Gallery, Elk Mountain House, Handlebar Bike Shop, Chopwood Mercantile, Favor the Kind, Secret Stash and Public House.
After taking a break from the project during COVID, the Adaptive team began working with the town to create new signs for the nine buildings, which direct patrons to the accessible entrances. “We made sure the signs fit the town’s parameters and requirements for signage,” said Schrammel. He noted that the signs don’t apply to the businesses’ sign limit, which was a relief to many of the establishments he worked with.
“Adaptive approached me about adding the signs to the fronts of the buildings,” said Astrid Matison, building official for the town of Crested Butte. “I was totally for it because it makes us more code compliant.” Because of their historic nature, the buildings of Crested Butte are often not able to be modified, but she noted that all new buildings have ADA requirements and the town code advocates for more accessibility if possible in the case of a remodel of an existing building. “What we’re trying to do is if there’s an opportunity for a remodel or work on the property, to make it more available to all,” she explained. “The existing international building code requires if it’s possible without damaging the historic nature of the building’s architectural features to make it accessible.”
The town also provided Adaptive with a $500 community grant to help with the design and production of the signs. Adaptive worked with a designer and the Sign Guys in Gunnison to create and produce the signs. Some of the signs have already been installed, including at the Secret Stash, Handlebar Bike Shop and the Elk Mountain House tri-plex which houses Native Nectar, The Fountain and Daily Dose.
What struck Schrammel the most about the process was how many businesses were into the idea and on board from the beginning. “The signs are voluntary, and the business owners were amazing,” he said. “They were all in, everyone was really cool about this and wanted to do whatever they could to help.”
Schrammel also said some businesses in town have temporary modifications they can make to accommodate folks. The Slogar has a small ramp they can put out for wheelchairs, and both McGill’s and Shaun Horne Gallery have doorbells that folks can ring if they need an accessible entrance.
Schrammel shared that there were some surprises from the process and he discovered some accessible options that he didn’t know about. “We did find some elevators that we didn’t know existed,” he said of the elevator at the old Third Bowl location on Second and Elk. “There’s also a stair chair at Thrive Yoga and a stair chair behind Cottonwood Tees.”
Moving forward, Schrammel realizes that with all the historical buildings along Elk Avenue, there are limits to the modifications that can be done. However, Adaptive now has all the information should someone want to make any adjustments in the future. “If businesses want to know what to do to make their space more accessible, they can reach out and we can go back and look at our notes with all the specs,” he said. “Maybe it’s as easy as making more room between racks of merchandise or putting a low table near the register where someone in a wheelchair can sign a credit card receipt. It’s still all voluntary but we can make recommendations. We think it’s good now that we have this information to take advantage of it.”