Green Mountain Falls’ Paid-parking Dilemma Headed for Round Three

No Firm Date Set For Final Decision

Rick Langenberg


Question of the month: Which controversy has a better chance of getting resolved quicker, the ongoing camping restriction fight in Woodland Park or the managed/paid parking showdown in Green Mountain Falls, or better yet, none of the above?


If you are a betting person, select the latter option.


The idea of paid-parking in GMF still has become the talk of the town, with locals and business operators wondering if the plan proponents need to go out for a local hike to clear their heads; or if the proposal has a good chance of becoming a workable, win-win arrangement, allowing the government to rake in much needed revenue for such projects as road improvements. And maybe it could help turn GMF into a thriving tourist hub, according to plan proponents.


Town leaders have delayed any action for two consecutive meetings, and based on the latest list of concerns, it doesn’t appear that a final decision will occur overnight, almost similar to the fate over camping rules in Woodland Park.


To the surprise of some political insiders, the elected trustees didn’t finalize an agreement with the Interstate Parking Company of Colorado on May 18 as expected, with a decision postponed for possibly several weeks. This company does paid-parking programs for Breckenridge, Keystone, Idaho Springs and many communities in Colorado.


The latest parking hearing featured another lively discussion, with a spree of concerns regarding the program details.


Some of the issues that need to get worked out deal with signage, the area’s limited cell phone coverage, the specific parking-related computer technology and infrastructure and contract language. More dialogue is expected between town officials and key community leaders and certain property owners. Questions have persisted about a way to exit the two-year contract, if the plan doesn’t work, or if concerns are raised by residents and business operators.


Interstate Parking officials say they will work with the community, and are asking resident to give the plan a chance. They would install close to $200,000 in parking-related infrastructure, such as kiosks, state-of-the-art equipment and the use of parking ambassadors. None of these expenses will cost the town any money.


Despite some concerns about the details, most elected trustees favor the idea of a managed parking system, especially on the weekends. Trustee Chris Quinn, however, opposes the program, citing this is a bad way to handle the town’s current dilemma.


The plan would mark a big character change for GMF, and it has received a thumbs-down verdict by business operators and by many residents. Virtually all the comments aired at public meetings have opposed the program.


Already, The Pantry restaurant has reignited the opposition movement, with a fabricated parking ticket placed on the restaurant wall and a miniature meter, as part of a mock display. If you spend time in The Pantry restaurant, chances are you can’t avoid a conversation over the town’s paid-parking plan.


Pantry owner Ben Stephens contends the plan will cripple the business, a mainstay tradition of GMF for decades. “We are a town with a few restaurants and dirt trails. This is ridiculous,” said Stephens.


But on the other side of the coin, leaders say the town needs better control over its crowd situation and in dealing with a growing surge of hikers. GMF has become a hiking and trails’ destination that has been discovered by area outdoor buffs. “The cat is out of the bag,” said Mayor Jane Newberry, on several occasions during this debate. She has referred to the program not as paid-parking, but as a managed parking system.


The closure of the Waldo Canyon area due to a devastating wildfire, coupled with more restrictions for the Manitou Incline and the addition of more local trails and ,more grant money, has brought more hikers to town.

Elected leaders also say the addition this summer of the new James Turrell Skyspace attraction would further put pressure on parking access.


The program would not theoretically impact local residents, as they won’t be charged any fees. Parking also will be free for the initial two hours for visitors.


But some concerns have developed how the actual program will be implemented. Also, some critics question if the town really has a parking problem, and cite more concerns over hikers’ not knowing where to go, when they enter town, and the need for more directional signage and trail maps. Others have advocated putting the issue on the ballot for a vote.


It still is not certain when a decision will occur, but the main test, if the plan goes through, will deal with the implementation of the program. This year could mark a pilot effort, if a contract between GMF and Interstate Parking is finalized.