Paid-Parking Program Approved In Green Mountain Falls

Weekend hikers could be the real losers in Green Mountain Falls’ newest bid to establish paid-parking in the downtown area for extended visits. For the last several years, the area has gained recognition as a big recreation destination. Photo By Rick Langenberg

Installation of $200,000 in Kiosk and Sign Infrastructure Expected

Rick Langenberg

The day of reckoning has arrived for hikers and long-time visitors in Green Mountain Falls, who plan to spend time trekking on the trails and  hanging out in the community.

Meanwhile, locals may experience the sight of $200,000 worth of infrastructure getting installed within the next few weeks to prepare for the pilot program, as GMF becomes the first community in the Ute Pass to charge visitors for parking. The new plan, though, won’t affect local residents, business employees, short-term restaurant, bar and shop patrons and church guests, and will only  be in affect during the weekend in the summer.

Last week, by a 3-1 vote, the GMF Board of Trustees okayed a new contract with the Interstate Parking Company of Colorado for two years, along with a related code enforcement ordinance. A letter will be sent out to Green Mountain Falls’ residents and business owners shortly, advising them of the changes.

A future community forum also will be held in the Sally Bush Community Center, according to Town Manager Angie Sprang.

Surprisingly, the action was done in a low-key manner and represented a continuation of a previous May 18 hearing, when a decision was delayed.

No public comment was heard at last week’s hearing, until a decision was rendered.  Unlike past meetings, the June 1 session was conducted in-person and people could not witness it virtually, unless they made prior commitments to speak. This created some confusion among citizens and business owners in the community.

But in reality, with town leaders discussing such critical issues as opening the door for allowing and taxing future  retail marijuana shops, funding significant infrastructure improvements and selling town hall (see related story), the parking situation took a back seat.

Still, the decision is becoming the talk of the town.

“You have got to be kidding,” said one business owner, when learning of the trustees’ verdict. “Don’t they listen to what we  have to say?  This is ridiculous.”

Above, a group of trekkers reach the summit of Mount Dewey, one of the newer prime scenic trail loop routes to Catamount Falls, while a few hikers display their Yoga skills on the route’s spiritual platform deck. Photos by Rick Langenberg

But during last week’s discussion, several trustees stated that they have taken in the views of all of their constituents, and not just a loud vocal outcry from a group of citizens who have expressed stern opposition to paid-parking at virtually every town virtual forum.

“We have heard a lot of vocal comments about the parking plan.  The majority of the people are not vocal,” said Trustee Katharine Guthrie.  She noted that in surveys, most residents indicated a desire for a more managed parking scenario.

‘I am  hoping for the best. This is not a life-time commitment,” added Guthrie.

Guthrie recently conducted a visit to Idaho Springs, the town the new GMF parking plan is modeled after somewhat. She stated that many  business employees there hated the program at first, but then discovered an increase in sales, with visitors getting connected more to their restaurants and shops. She hoped the same scenario could occur in Green Mountain Falls.

Part of the GMF program includes information about the local trails and area restaurants/establishments.

Mayor Jane Newberry, who has emerged as the most vocal proponent of the plan at local meetings, stressed that hikers and visitors have to pay their due share. “Looking at the big picture, people come here to hike,” said Newberry. “They use our facilities and don’t pay anything at all.”

In the final vote, Newberry, Guthrie and Trustee Margaret Peterson said yes to the paid-parking program and contract, while Trustee Chris Quinn voted no.  Trustee Dyani Loo was out of town and didn’t participate in the vote. In the past, Loo  has expressed reservations about aspects of the program.

A blow to Local Businesses

But as expected, this decision ignited a few sparks later in the meeting during public comment, voiced virtually.  Rocco Blasi, the chairman of the former trails’ committee, stated that that the decision represented a slap in the face against the majority wishes of the citizens, and clashed with the concept of representative democracy.  He also cited this as a stab against local commerce. “How does this help our businesses?” questioned Blasi.

As he has done in previous meetings, Blasi requested the immediate firing of Sprang.

Other speakers were a little more low-key.  Planning Commission Chairman Todd Dixon complimented the town for exploring other revenue sources, such as paid parking, but did question its staffing analysis.

Planning Commission member Lamar Mathews, meanwhile, stated that the town needs to immediately terminate its town manager form of government and return to a trustee/liaison system.

With last week’s decision, the stage is now set for Interstate to begin implementing its program, which will include about 15 parking kiosk devices, signs, state-of-the-art equipment and parking ambassadors.

Sprang estimated it could take several weeks to implement the program.  The town manager also stated that her office will keep the community informed about what to expect, with a letter being sent to every local post office box holder and press/Facebook announcements. In addition, she said a forthcoming community meeting will occur. “There will be lots of community engagement,” said Sprang. “That is part of the contract.” In a staff report, the town manager stated, “Nothing is changing for residents or businesses, except improved quality of life.”