– by Rick Langenberg –
A Mountain Western MeccaMost of the attention focused on the official roll-out of the Main Street group’s new vision as a mountain western town for Woodland Park. For the most part, this idea was well-received by business representatives and residents. It was based on a new survey that generated more than 200 respondents
With this new image, future signage and even projects in the Main Street downtown area will try to comply with this vision.
“This is not a shoot them-up John Wayne type of town,” warned Trent. Instead, she classified the new vision for Woodland Park as an image reflecting a mountain western town with a prime natural setting. “You know you are in Woodland Park,” added the consultant and facilitator for the latest round of community meetings, when describing the town’s image.
City Planning Director Sally Riley cautioned that the final image encompasses a variety of styles, including southwestern, classic log, art deco, railroad theme-oriented, an arts and crafts/mission look, mountain modern and mountain classic and even Victorian. “These styles have blended to create something important for Woodland Park,” said Riley, who also threw out the word “eclectic,” when describing Woodland Park.
That said, Riley cited strip malls and urban-looking developments as a no-no, based on community comments. Also, the town will continue to emphasize design standards to ensure an attractive town.
Still, she and officials want to keep the door open to project ideas that help foster Woodland Park’s image as a vibrant mountain western town. “We do not want to squash any creativity,” said the planning director.
According to Darlene Jensen, coordinator for the Main Street program in Woodland Park, the main focus of the new vision will play a role in signage and future project designs within the downtown. She sees the main potential emphasis on the mountain modern and classic look and southwestern, based on the findings of recent community meetings and a detailed survey.
Some concerns were voiced about Victorian-style buildings that have been proposed in the past. The main consensus reached was that this particular style didn’t mesh well with Woodland Park, but again, city officials say they want to encourage flexibility.
A need for more young people
The vision of a mountain western town was heavily supported by most meeting attendees last week. Still, some residents and business owners contend that the town needs to do more to attract young people and young families. Jamie Caperton, executive director of the Habitat for Humanity of Teller County, worries that the proposed downtown vision may just be a little too old-fashion. “We have to do a good job to encourage young people to stay in our community,” said Caperton.
“If you don’t grow, you die,” admitted Trent.
Several Main Street leaders cited the need to have more entertainment and activities for young people, but didn’t get too specific on how the vision plan would accomplish these goals.
The idea of making the town more walkable was touted as a suggestion that accommodates all age groups. In the past, the Main Street group has mulled having more pedestrian plazas and developing more buffering between the highway and downtown businesses.
Other ideas presented included more of a focus on business content, in establishing a more prosperous downtown. “We need to promote retail,” said Jerry Good, a local business owner and a member of the Downtown Development Authority board. “We have to look at the content of our downtown.”
In the past, town leaders have considered trying to lure specific types of businesses into the downtown core with limited success.
Highway 24 Bypass Pursuit in Limbo
Jensen conceded that the “white elephant in the room” still hinges on a future highway bypass, with Hwy. 24 blues still plaguing Woodland Park’s future. Currently, nearly 30,000 vehicles a day drive on Hwy. 24 in the center of Woodland Park. This makes efforts for a pedestrian-friendly town challenging for town leaders.
And unfortunately, local leaders didn’t get too much encouragement on the bypass front at last week’s community forum.
Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen, who serves as the vice-chairman of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and a key representative of a state-wide transportation advisory committee, stated that a future bypass is listed as an identified need for the 2045 (year) Hwy. 24 improvement plan. But at the same time, he stated that no funding is available for this project, initially identified in the early 1990s. He estimates the cost of a highway bypass to exceed $100 million, and could possibly top the $200 million mark. In fact, no money is even in the pipeline for studying the details of a future highway bypass route that would loop around the downtown.
Ultimately, Steen believes that the city elected leaders will have to take a formal position in the future regarding the town’s bypass scenario. According to Jensen, the Main Street group hasn’t taken any position regarding a highway bypass.
City officials haven’t really addressed the issue due to the fact that a future Woodland Park highway project may be years away from becoming a reality.
“We know we need to do something,” said City Manager David Buttery, in a later interview, in discussing the current traffic situation in Woodland Park. He acknowledged that the idea of diverting current Hwy. 24 traffic through alternative routes in other parts of town hasn’t been met with much support.
But as far as a specific bypass plan, or revisiting an earlier proposed corridor, little action has occurred, noted Buttery.
In the meantime, Jensen and Buttery stated that the future downtown focus will be on pedestrian safety and making the downtown into a more walkable area.