A Meeting of the Minds Held for a Future Downtown

Highway Bypass Not a Reality Until 2050

~ by Bob Volpe ~ 

Last Thursday, local citizens, activist groups and chamber of commerce, government and downtown development officials met at the Ute Pass Cultural Center to discuss a vision for the long term future of downtown Woodland Park.

A second meeting was held later in the week.

 The event was hosted by the Woodland Park Main Street (WPMS) group. The mission of the group is to enhance the quality of life in Woodland Park by engaging the community in historic preservation, downtown revitalization, and economic development by promoting a strong business climate.

 Darlene Jenson, WPMS coordinator, introduced consultant Sheryl Trent, a state paid facilitator with the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). Jenson said, “DOLA recognized that communities across Colorado needed help in the form of guidance, resources, and grants. Part of our work plan for 2017 recognized that Woodland Park needed an identity. We need a vision for downtown. So, with your input we will be developing a resolution of helping to develop a vision. We will be taking that resolution to the Main St. board for adoption and on to the city council for recognition.”

Trent presented a conceptual plan that combines the efforts of local business, arts, government, and citizen groups into one cohesive force to better accomplish the goal of achieving the needs and wants of the  city’s future.

 WPMS recently conducted a study to ask residents what they would like to see for the future of downtown.  The results of the survey concluded people want more natural experiences downtown, a creative atmosphere, and extended hours for local businesses.

 To clarify these concepts the survey asked what people would like to see physically in their downtown. The top answers included: safe pedestrian access, more places to sit and gather, family activities, safety along the highway, and historic preservation.

 The survey also concluded that people want to see more outdoor cafes, mountain oriented stores, outdoor events, high-end restaurants, a tourist center, pedestrian only mall, trails and bike lanes, art galleries, western theme stores, face lifts for businesses, breweries not on the highway, open green space, affordable rent, wifi services downtown, renewable energy, night life, a health food store, and more parking.

 This data from the survey and the two meetings will be used by the Main Street board to develop an actual written vision for downtown. The draft will be published on the Main Street Facebook page for feedback.

 During Thursday’s meeting, Trent also asked attendees to express their ideas for the vision. Leanne Dwyer, a recent Woodland Park high school graduate, stepped up to offer her idea. She said, “My idea is to; if possible, create a music venue or event venue where we could have concerts and our graduation ceremony, so we wouldn’t have to go to the Springs. I also believe this would bring people to our town. Bringing acts to town would benefit families who don’t want their kids to go to Denver.”

 No public input meeting about the future vision for Woodland Park would be complete without a mention of the mythical Woodland Park bypass, a plan mulled for decades. Fortunately, Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen was in attendance and offered an update on the status of the bypass.

 Steen said, “I know that the background of the bypass has a long and passionate history. Everything I’ve seen in surveys both locally and with the Pikes Peak Council of Governments, (PPCG) the predominance of feedback is a desire to get traffic off of  the main street. In the early days of the project it was viewed that lots of cars means lots of business. Nowadays there’s so many cars people can’t conduct business and you can’t safely walk across main street.  Most recently we’ve done some research into what seems to be the plan. Right now the PPCG, which I am the vice-chair for the Pikes Peak region, see a plan for 2050. That’s how far out they think.”

 “It has been determined that the bypass is a long term need for the region. It has identified a funding need of a study of $3 million. That is just for the study. The study would include, not only environmental, but also the hearing, architectural study. Anyway it is in a plan, but it is not funded. There’s no money, but there may be a place to find the money.There is already some money identified for improvements of highway 24 from 8th Street clear up Ute Pass. There is about $15 million dollars already allocated for drainage improvements, bridge improvements, but talking with the CDOT engineer we may be able to carve out some of it.”

 “There is also the Transportation Funding Bill. It proposed to raise statewide a sales tax raise to 6.2 percent. That should generate almost a billion dollars annually. Three Hundred Million dollars of that would go to state projects. If that passes the house and senate you will see a ballot initiative in November of 2017,” added Steen.