Downtown parking: Develop plans now

The Salida downtown parking study conducted by Walker Consultants found that the current available supply is sufficient to meet demands.

Glen Van Nimwegen, city community development director, said this was one of the biggest take-aways from the review.

The determination is somewhat surprising in that many observers would say downtown has a serious parking problem, at least during busiest times of the year.

Parking is more of an issue in warmer months. From late May to mid-September, parking along E, F and G streets from Third to Sackett is noticeably tighter than from late September to mid-May.

Parking for special events such as FIBArk, ArtWalk or Independence Day is difficult. Finding ways to address the problem, such as shuttling visitors and residents from more distant parking, would relieve some of the tension and pressure.

During summer months on weekdays at times of peak visitor traffic, parking is getting much tighter. In addition, at these times downtown streets are highly congested with pedestrians, bikes and cars.

Mr. Van Nimwegen said in three years parking may not be sufficient if the city continues to grow.

Given that parking is tight now and streets are seriously congested – especially so during summer months – the city should be putting a short- as well as long-term plan in place.

One possibility is to work with property owners who do have vacant land suitable for public parking. Officials should consider leases as well as purchasing property, which, though expensive, would be a longer-term solution.

As for converting to paid and metered parking, most downtown property owners and businesses are opposed for now. Depending on what happens in the next few years, however, this view could change as parking availability gets ever tighter.

Because coming up with a plan and then implementing it will take time, the city should make parking a priority, developing solutions now before the situation reaches a crisis point.

Up-down-up year

It’s been an up-down-up year for moisture in Salida and southern Chaffee County.

The year started with abundant moisture, in surrounding high country as well as in the valley. At the end of May precipitation in Salida was above average and Sawatch Range snowpack was at near-record levels.

As summer wore on, dry weather set in with moisture totals dropping well below normal, with some areas seeing little if any rain during late July, August and September, leading to the Decker Fire.

The fire burned for some six weeks before it was contained with the help of a change in weather, namely a late October snowstorm that dropped more than a foot of white on Salida and the northern Sangre de Cristos.

Another storm earlier this week deposited between a foot and 16 inches of snow on the valley, with Salida’s precipitation total now just below average for the year.

The late fall storms have been great news for skiers and boarders, for Monarch Mountain and visitor-related businesses. Monarch opened for weekends Nov. 1 and, with 22 inches of new snow, now reports a 38-inch base with more snow expected.

Speaking of weather, light snow is predicted for Friday and Salida’s Christmas opening. Dress warmly: Blustery winds are in the forecast.

Weekend travel is expected to be hazardous over much of Colorado. The forecast for Monarch Pass calls for up to 7 inches of snow with Wolf Creek looking at up to 68 inches. Enough said …

— MJB