Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs In recent weeks, it has become apparent the signs stating "Absolutely No Construction Parking" posted in Steamboat Springs have become invisible to, oddly enough, construction workers. Perhaps a friendly reminder is in order.
First, let me begin with well-deserved praise.
All winter, I've watched hundreds of construction workers toil under difficult conditions. Each day, they've battled record snowfall and freezing cold with almost no recognition from those of us who will benefit for years to come from their labor.
I know I speak for many when I say thank you to these hard-working folks for the great job they do under difficult circumstances.
Because I'm appreciative, I'm hesitant to nitpick at the crews currently transforming Steamboat Springs. But pick a nit I will in hopes of preventing a replay of some of the ugliness that transpired last summer.
As a creature of habit, most days, I venture downtown to Steaming Bean Coffee, where Todd's bevy of beautiful baristas have all I need to satisfy my morning addictions - a warm smile, a warm mug of Velvet Hammer and the Steamboat Pilot &Today.
Of late, while in pursuit of my morning fix, I've noticed along Yampa Street and in the parking lot at Seventh and Yampa two items in abundant evidence. "Absolutely No Construction Parking" signs paired with absolutely parked construction vehicles.
The scene often is replete with construction workers standing by vehicles - bearing the name of the contractor they belong to - as they put on their tool belts and head off to work. And, if I happen into town later in the day, I see the same scene with the same vehicles juggled to different spots to avoid the two-hour parking restrictions while still ignoring the "Absolutely No Construction Parking" signs.
Admittedly, it's hard to find fault with anyone trying to park close to where they work. We all do it - including those who work downtown in businesses other than construction. And we should all remember that construction is, after all, the business of construction workers. So they, like us, prefer to park close to their business. Still, construction crews were last to the downtown parking dance and agreed to make use of alternative parking sites so downtown parking remains open for patrons.
Hopefully a friendly nudge now - to abide by the parking terms agreed to - will prevent a larger problem when the summer business season warms up.
But our friends in construction aren't the only ones in need of a nudge. Some among us need something far stronger.
Recall last year when there was enough ugliness directed at construction workers by passersby that, as reported by the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Sept. 3, 2007, "one construction company lost all of its flaggers, who reportedly quit the job because they were tired of receiving verbal abuse and obscene gestures from citizens and tourists."
Let's be clear. That type of abuse directed at any worker, construction or not, is intolerable, and I'd hope that the rest of us would have enough civic pride to either chastise the abuser or call the police.
The rising tensions surrounding parking and other construction issues last summer resulted in powwows between construction firms, business owners, city staff and the public. Those meetings - with Steamboat Springs' Construction Service Foreman Greg Gunn packing the peace pipe - continue on a bi-weekly basis.
I had a chat with Greg on Wednesday that left me reassured that the right man is dealing with the difficult job of balancing the needs of contractors with the needs of local businesses and customers. Greg acknowledged that in recent weeks there's been an increase in contractors not abiding with parking agreements, and he's prepared to use additional enforcement arrows from his quiver if voluntary compliance doesn't increase.
Let's hope that's not needed.
So, if I might, I'd like to offer suggestions for each of the stakeholders in our downtown business community in an attempt to reduce tensions as the summer business season approaches:
Construction site supervisors must insist contractors use the alternative parking locations the city has provided in order to keep downtown parking open for patrons of local businesses.
Downtown business owners should encourage employees to use alternative transportation and parking to keep parking available for their customers.
City Council must create long-term parking solutions.
And the rest of us?
Let's offer a smile, a hello and a thank you when we pass construction workers working hard to make Steamboat a better place.
Rob Douglas can be reached at Douglas@privacytoday.com