Emerald parking problems remain

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— Residents along Pamela Lane do not want traffic accessing Emerald Park from behind their homes any more than they want park traffic on Pamela Lane itself.

That point became clear Thursday when residents met at the park with City Council members and Botanic Park representatives to discuss how to create an alternative access to the soccer and baseball fields at the park.

Access to Emerald Park is a factor in negotiations between the city and Triple Crown, the softball and baseball tournament organizer that wants to use the Emerald Park baseball fields in the future.

Currently, the only way to access the parking areas for Emerald Park and the adjacent Yampa River Botanic Park by vehicle is to take Trafalgar Drive to Pamela Lane.

Councilman Paul Strong, who sits on Steamboat's Triple Crown negotiating committee, said Triple Crown's use of Emerald Park would not be considered until another access is built.

Pamela Lane residents said Thursday traffic on their street is already a problem without Triple Crown.

One of the major problems in creating a new access is crossing the railroad without using Pamela Lane. During the afternoon meeting, council directed staff to start talks with the Union Pacific Railroad and to look into purchasing land bordering U.S. 40.

The city discussed three options for creating a new access. The least expensive alternative taking traffic along Trafalgar Drive and then behind the Pamela Lane homes drew objections from the residents. Such an access would only cost about $500,000, but residents said traffic levels would still greatly affect the neighborhood.

The more expensive of the two other alternatives would create a parking lot off of U.S. 40 and across from the Hampton Inn. A pedestrian overpass or underpass would then be built to carry people from the parking lot across the railroad and into the park.

Under this option, estimated at more than $2 million, access to the park from Pamela Lane would be sealed.

Although residents liked the option, they noted Pamela Lane could still be a drop-off point for parents. Also, city officials said securing approval for a pedestrian crossing from the railroad company could prove lengthy and costly. The third alternative would extend Ski Town Way to bring traffic over a new railroad crossing and into the existing parking lot. Access from Trafalgar and Pamela Lane would be closed. Construction for this option is estimated at more than $2 million.

Because of low capital reserves and the involvement of the Union Pacific Railroad, city officials said it would be at least two to three years before an alternative access could materialize.

Although Pamela Lane residents and Botanic Garden representatives are eager to see the access issue solved, many are still cautious that a second access could bring in Triple Crown tournaments.

Residents have been outspoken in their criticism of the baseball and softball tournaments, complaining that the event increases traffic, congestion and noise levels in the summer.

"We would love for the access problem to be solved," Botanic Park President Bob Enever said. "But speaking for the 300 members of the Yampa River Botanic Park, we do not believe solving the access problem should open the door for Triple Crown to use those fields."

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