Walkable Plan for Woodland Park Sparks Mixed Views

by Beth Dodd:

The Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority held a work session to discuss a walkability study for downtown Woodland Park on January 17.

The study was put together by graduate students from CU’s Colorado Center for Community Development on behalf of Woodland Park Main Street. While the plan is only conceptual at this point, it generated a vigorous discussion among DDA board members and members of the community last week.

The goals of the walkability plan are to create a pedestrian and bicyclist friendly downtown, with an emphasis on accessibility, safety, and visual appeal. The specific area studied was Quinn Alley between Pine and Park Streets, which runs behind the businesses on the north side of US 24. This area now includes parking for patrons and access for delivery trucks.

The students recommended that the parking in Quinn Alley be shifted to the north to allow more space for plazas, patios, and movement of pedestrians. They also suggested a plaza on Center Street, which would entail removing five parking spaces and closing the street to cars. Finally, they suggested making Pine and Park Streets one way going north, and placing protective planters along the sidewalks on US 24. This would allow for north-south pedestrian movement between Woodland Station and Memorial Park and emphasize the views of Pikes Peak.

Merry Jo Larsen, DDA Chairman and owner of the Cowhand business, said “There are some good concepts here, and some that won’t work.”

For example, Elijah Murphy, owner of The Historic Ute Inn, expressed concern about access for delivery trucks at his popular restaurant and bar. If trucks could no longer use Quinn Alley, they would have to park on U.S. Hwy. 24 to unload, blocking traffic in the process.

Other downtown business owners said they need to have input into any plans for the downtown area because they have a lot invested there. To them, it doesn’t make sense to take away parking when parking is already limited, but they acknowledge that noise, wind, and exhaust fumes from traffic on U.S. Hwy. 24 can make it unpleasant or even unsafe to walk on the street.

However, there have to be fun things for people to do downtown to attract pedestrians in the first place. The DDA is planning to add several new events to existing town celebrations like Vino & Notes and the Old Fashioned 4th of July. Watch for the return of rodeo to Woodland Park, a golf tournament, and more in 2017.

With the new and improved Memorial Park open for activities this summer, Woodland Station could be used for event parking, making safe passage across Hwy. 24 more important than ever. The center medians there now are an impediment to people crossing the highway on foot. The DDA and Main Street might consider working with CDOT to remedy this by creating new crossing points.

Or if the medians were removed altogether, it might be possible to go back to parking in front of the businesses on US 24. The parked cars would create a natural buffer between the highway and the sidewalk. Another idea was to ask CDOT to require 18 wheel trucks passing through town to use the left lane.

Of course, if any of these ideas are to be put into action, they will have to be paid for. Woodland Park is in the running for a $500,000 grant from the Small Business Revolution, sponsored by the Deluxe Corporation. Out of more than 14,000 submissions Woodland Park has made it to the top eight.

On February 9, Deluxe will announce the top five finalists. If Woodland Park is chosen, then locals will have seven days to vote for their community. You can cast one vote per device every day. If you have a smart phone, laptop and tablet, you can vote three times each day. Voting will run from February 9 through Feb. 16.To learn more, visit www.wpmainstreet.org.