The GMF Lake Albatross

Green Mountain Falls Town Pow-Wow Ignites Sparks; Ad Hoc Committee Formed

Rick Langenberg

The ugly GMF downtown site  is described by some as the town’s infamous albatross or local infrastructure curse.

Whatever the description, Green Mountain Falls  residents last week made it loud and clear they wants safety improvements at a key scenic corridor at a four-way stop, known as the Stilling Basin area, overlooking the lake. They are seeking immediate help, describing the current infrastructure scenario on Hotel  Street and nearby areas as unacceptable. Many also are asking why these temporary projects, supposedly designed to help the town, don’t ever end.

More importantly, they want improvements from a bad eye sore and an area of town that poses serious dangers to motorists, pedestrians and hikers. In fact, about the only group that didn’t escape criticism at the May 9 forum were the geese.

Town officials, though, say the Stilling Basin isn’t a  new project and is being design to curb sediment from flowing into the lake and to help with significant drainage. The lake is constantly drained due to excessive sediment and drainage problems, a situation that creates water quality problems, according to city officials.   The basin is described as a vital endeavor, financed by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPTRA), which GMF is part of.

However, the current site has been in question for some time, with residents upset about the removal of the geese, memorials, trees and more.

A town hall meeting last week wasn’t short on vocal comments, with residents expressing their displeasure with the current infrastructure woes, afflicting a residential area that often serves as a key byway to many of the local trails and a key side route for locals and tourists.

The main culprit targeted last week is a guard rail, located about 50 feet above the Stilling Basin area on Park Avenue, originally recommended by the engineers for the project to combat heavy traffic flow and facilitate better drainage.

“It is dangerous,” blasted Planning Commissioner Lisa Bonwell.

She noted that the roadway, right above the Stilling Basin project, proposed to curb sediment flow into the lake, has become hazardous for hikers and motorists alike, with only one vehicle able to trek through the area at one time. “I believe the guard rail should be removed,” said Bonwell, the commission vice-chairperson.

This struck a favorable cord with nearly all the residents who attended last week’s town hall session. “What kind of improvements are we going to have. It is going to get progressively worse,” said resident Joan Compton.

Former city clerk and mayor Christ Frandina noted she had driven in the area in question for 53 years, and never experienced a situation quite as  dire. She expressed strong support for the idea of removing the guard rail.

Why is this project taking so long, and who is in charge.  And if it is not working, let’s make improvements now and get away from this albatross.

These were some of the sentiments voiced by residents, who weren’t shy about questioning the role of the town engineers, the trustees and contractors.

Not a New Project

Mayor Todd Dixon sympathized with their frustration, but in a detailed presentation, explained that the Basin effort, which now looks like a huge ditch overlooking one of the town’s main scenic corridors, is not a new project. In fact, he even cited the genesis of this effort as early as 1993, but real active work and planning moving into full speed in 2019.

Dixon said town officials have been pressing the contractor hard to complete the Basin project as soon as possible. He warned against taking  a totally different direction, as far as doing other infrastructure improvements, which he believes could jeopardize other funds the town would receive by the Pikes Peak  Rural Transportation Authority and become a bureaucratic mess.

Dixon outlined an entire detailed lineup of addition infrastructures projects of extreme significance, such as improving the main bridge coming into town on Ute Pass Avenue.

Some planners, though, including Bonwell, queried the mayor on the specific penalties and fines it could face. She suggested that the town consider examining long-term planning solutions, while the current Basin work reaches a conclusion.

Another idea throw out at last week’s community pow-wow was turning Hotel Street, where the Basin area is located, into one-way route. The only downer for this idea is this would impact close to 20 property owners, who would have to take a longer route to access their homes.

Don Walker, who serves on the local trails, recreation and parks committee, and has experience as an engineer, said the town needed to take a more wholistic look into the situation.

“This is our community and we have (the opportunity) to make it the way we want it,” said Walker.  He encouraged residents to remain optimistic about developing a better long-term plan. “We can fix it (the current infrastructure situation).”

“This is not a good solution,” added Phil McIntire, another local engineer, who helps the town. “One thing about engineers is that they like to plan things on paper.”  But in reality, McIntire  stated that the associated infrastructure at the Basin area is not working.

At  the same time, he supported the mayor’s plan to have the work completed before making big changes. “You can’t change canoes in mid-stream,” said McIntire.

“We need to get out of this situation,” said Peter Carttar, an engineer, and one of the guest speakers at last week’s forum.

Compromise Pact Reached

During the official deliberation on this issue by the planning commission, the planners basically supported Bonwell’s idea and agreed to form an ad hoc design committee to come up with a long-term improvement plan for the area, and would include concept renderings. This would consist of several engineer volunteers, several of whom spoke at last week’s discussion.

“This is an opportunity for the community as a whole,” said Carttar, who believes the public could play a key role in the solution process.

The planners agree, but want to implement immediate safety enhancements initially, such as signage. “We needed to do that yesterday,” said Bonwell.