Woodland Park will probably never get a highway bypass that reroutes traffic away from the downtown, at least in the lifetime of most residents.
But the dream of creating a more pedestrian-friendly main street area is alive and well, even if it doesn’t occur along a key thoroughfare. However, city leaders are going to have to get a little more creative in turning Woodland into a more walkable and visitor-friendly hub, with big changes proposed in establishing parking areas, side street realignments and even road closures, along with significant beatification work and political lobbying.
Last week, the city council got a glimpse of a conceptual look for a more pedestrian-friendly town through a new walkability study, spearheaded by a committee consisting of Laurie Glauth, Darlene Jensen, Sally Riley and Lee Willoughby. Unfortunately, Willoughby, also a former member of the Keep Woodland Park Beautiful group, recently passed away, a death that many community leaders and residents are currently grieving. A variety of tributes were paid to his memory at last week’s meeting.
As a result, it was only fitting that one of Willoughby’s former projects, the new walkability study, got a favorable response by the city council.
Although a formal vote wasn’t taken, the elected leaders clearly signaled a thumbs-up verdict for the plans that will involve a new facelift for key sections of the downtown. The study culminated with work done by students from Colorado University, and is part of the Main Street effort.
The impetus behind the plan came from a comprehensive master plan and even a previous traffic study. At that time, the ideas of a bypass or a highway rerouting plan, again were heavily endorsed, but funding realities have turned these plans into a complete pipe dream, forcing leaders to look for other alternatives.
“Hwy. 24 is a challenge,” said Glauth, when introducing the study. And as key goal of the project, she cited the importance of “making the downtown the core area of Woodland Park that ties the community together.”
The main goals of the effort are to make the downtown more visually appealing and better for pedestrians and cyclists, while creating enhanced connectivity and safety.
Parts of the study are well known, such as doing a facelift of the several block Quinn Alley area, located behind many local businesses and parking areas in the downtown core. This alley would house the new proposed parking areas, while making room for a more open mall and plaza development. This could create more areas for festivals and events. Preliminary plans call for a Quinn Alley Promenade, a Center Street Plaza and the Antler Alley walk and art-way, with the goal of creating wider pedestrian plazas, patios and circulation areas.
Other parts of the plan call for changing Park and Pine Streets into one-way roadways going north, and closing off Center Street altogether. Plus, committee leaders favor installing protective planters along Hwy. 24 for the purpose of safety and beautification.
A Pedestrian Hub
The ultimate goal is to make Woodland Park into more of a destination hub for visitors and to encourage more pedestrian traffic.
Parts of the plan would require approval by the Colorado Department of Transportation, such as the installation of protective planters along Hwy. 24 in the downtown.
City Manager David Buttery believes the downtown enhancement plans wouldn’t meet any regulatory obstacles. “I was generally quite surprised,” said Buttery, when outlining the reception of this highway improvement proposal to CDOT representatives, at a recent meeting.
Woodland Park, though, would have to get aspects of its long-range priority plans changed by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.
“It is going to be a partnership,” admitted Glauth, in describing the cooperation that would have to occur between the government and local businesses
One of the key hurdles could involve the proposed parking changes. Ever since parking was eliminated from Hwy. 24 in the early 1990s, the downtown corridor has struggled over this issue. The main street parking was eliminated under the premise that the town would get a highway bypass. However, that project never materialized and is pretty much off the radar. Meanwhile, the Hwy. 24 traffic scenario worsened and more questions hinged on the future of the downtown.
The development of central business parking areas, behind a variety of downtown shops and restaurants, has progressed well, but it has created visual obstacles and not done much for promoting a pedestrian flavor or establishing areas for events. Still, the current parking spots are located fairly close to the rear of abutting businesses. That wouldn’t occur under the new proposal.
Under the new plan, city leaders believe that the one-way changes to both Park and Pine streets would provide an extra parking boost.
Most leaders liked the concept of the walkability study and encouraged the staff to move forwards with the plan. The city will try to obtain more grants, formalize name changes for certain alley areas and get to work on beatification projects off Hwy. 24.