Dropping into the skatepark this past weekend (figuratively, not literally), I saw the stragglers from the Evergreen Skateparks crew loading up some machinery on Saturday before hitting the road after a job well done. Those guys know how to lay down some concrete.
You want to see demonstrable community success? Head over to the new Big Mine Skatepark. That place rocks. Kudos to the town, the council and the community for doing something really well, really fast.
By Sunday, the skatepark that is located by my office was drawing as many people as I’ve ever seen there in a single day aside from the Bowl Bash. Monday was the same. So was Tuesday. There were skateboarders, bikers, scooters and roller skaters navigating the new park. And there was plenty of space in which to do it. It was weirdly quiet given how many wheels were on the ground and I was told it had to do with the “finish” the Evergreen crew laid on the concrete. I’m not a skater but I can see that place will bring people joy and there’s not much better than that. It is a home run.
I strolled over from the office and the comments matched the smiles. “Awesome,” “Sick,” “Smooth and not falling apart,” were descriptions whether the user was 10 years old or 40. People were taking photos and videos. It really was pretty great.
With an art installation coming in October, I can see where that $800,000 investment will be a gathering place for the community in general and a bunch of kids in particular. My initial suggestion would be to bring over a few more of the painted trash cans — and in fact town dropped some extras off early this week but they might need even more. Oh, and more bathrooms. The fact it was being used, and being used a lot, a week before school gets underway is another plus.
Then there is the new Crested Butte restaurant emergency disaster declaration, which is not as much of a demonstrable success and drops more into the empty gesture category…which is too bad given how efficient this town council has shown itself to be on most matters. I guess everyone is entitled to a swing and a miss.
The pressure of seeing so many closed restaurant spaces and noticing lines at every open eatery for months must have finally worn on the CB town council to the point they declared a “local disaster emergency” over the matter on Monday. It landed with a yawn. If there was any feeling of “emergency,” it was six weeks ago in the heart of the summer tourist season, not at the start of the shoulder season when restaurant renovations are hot and heavy.
After the staff analysis and recommendation came back to the council on Monday with a few weak potential actions that would basically put the town manager in another hot seat by pushing her to permit eateries or drinkeries near residences without the opportunity for people in those neighborhood residences to speak for or against the idea, the council half-heartedly but unanimously approved the “emergency” declaration. Staff said they “struggled” to find things town could do to help the situation in an emergency.
Passing “emergency declarations“ in this way felt like it was diluting real emergencies, like the workforce housing emergency. While there is a serious situation with so many restaurants shut down given circumstances that occurred since the pandemic, there is work being done on the vacant spaces and it feels like things are moving in the right direction. A council acknowledgment that the restaurant vacancies are negatively impacting the town sales tax collections and general community character and then directing staff to prioritize the assistance of any restaurant to open would have been enough in this situation.
Council members spoke of symbolism and gestures when initially talking about the resolution, and tried to rationalize that the Soupçon lunch offshoot of Miette would have had its patio service open weeks ago under this declaration after being closed down for not having proper permits. It probably wouldn’t have. It might have bought the outdoor lunch service a week at most given the paperwork processing and completion issues. Miette will make its case in front of BOZAR this Tuesday.
This “emergency disaster declaration” will not get one more kale salad on Elk Avenue any time soon. As pointed out by a citizen attending the council meeting, the tradeoff of silencing public comment to move along a process a week or so faster is a bad tradeoff. The action is simply a limp swing at a fastball.
Watching the Mark Walter Group pour money into at least two or three of its Elk Avenue restaurant properties, along with Jeff Hermanson and Kyleena Falzone doing the same at the soon-to-be Hideout, it appears the “market” is addressing the emergency.
The market results will be more open restaurants in town, hopefully before the winter season. Whether the future working residents of Whetstone can afford to eat there is another matter, especially after hearing a Walter Group representative say at a council meeting that the old Brick will go German Beer Garden theme and that prices would likely be adjusted in off-seasons to accommodate locals. Great. But I’m wondering how much a beer and a brat could possibly cost in July or March during on-season? I guess I’ll have to wait and see since Mark isn’t calling me…
One good point that came out of the restaurant emergency discussion was the future of small business owners on Elk Avenue. Council and staff did rightfully note the disappearance of the small owner-operator being able to make a cool spot in CB for people to eat. Given huge jumps in the price of commercial real estate, that is indeed a real long-term concern. That type of entrepreneur has contributed greatly to the character of Crested Butte. Finding ways to keep them here, including the possible bold idea of purchasing deed restrictions for some commercial property to help accommodate that, is something worth discussing more in depth. A sort of blah “emergency disaster declaration” that is more symbolism than effective action is an eye roller.
Every board or council has some home runs and some strikeouts. The latest disaster emergency declaration is a whiff. The skatepark however, is a grand slam home run.