While some in Steamboat Springs call for downtown parking changes, others don’t see a problem | SteamboatToday.com

While some in Steamboat Springs call for downtown parking changes, others don’t see a problem

Traffic moves through downtown Steamboat Springs. A consultant from Denver told a crowd Tuesday night that while he doesn't think Steamboat has a 'big' parking problem right now, some challenges remain.

— Ask someone downtown what they think of the parking situation here, and you’ll get everything from a head shake to a sigh to a laugh before the answer.

Does Steamboat Springs have a parking problem?

It depends on who you ask, and how far they’re willing to walk.

“I haven’t found it to be that bad because I walk a lot of the time,” Lynn Bear said Monday afternoon as she hurried across Lincoln Avenue to catch a city bus. “We all could use a little more walking.”

Brent and Joyce Scott, who have been visiting Steamboat from Salt Lake City for several years, also weren’t troubled by the current parking situation.

“If it’s busy right here (on Lincoln Avenue), there is ample parking around the corner. We don’t even blink,” Brent Scott said.

Scott said he found Steamboat’s completely free parking system, a rarity among Colorado resort destinations, to be appealing. He said back home in Salt Lake City, new parking meters downtown were pushing people to shop at shopping malls.

Go a few blocks away from where the Scotts were walking around Monday and pop into a downtown store, and the owner there isn’t as positive about the current parking situation in downtown Steamboat.

The issue is so charged for some, they don’t want to be quoted talking about it.

“What our customers say is they are upset because the buses are taking parking spaces in front of the store, and they can’t find a place to park,” the store owner, who didn’t want to be named, said about downtown parking.

As it is in other cities, parking is an immortal issue here in Steamboat.

Tweaks have been made here and there, but a drastic overhaul has never happened.

Multiple parking studies have been done here throughout decades, and many recommendations, ranging from paid parking to better management of existing spaces, have been made but not acted upon.

On Tuesday, city officials will brief the Steamboat Springs City Council about the ways they are trying to improve parking.

The short-term efforts include new wayfinding signs making it easier for people to find free parking lots off of Lincoln and the conversion of some parking spaces from parallel to diagonal on side streets.

Long-term, the city has hired a consultant to do a fresh parking study and offer recommendations.

On Lincoln Avenue on Monday afternoon, the lack of any major changes to downtown parking was a blessing to some and a disappointment for others.

“The problem is, there’s no long-term solution,” Moose Mountain Trading Company owner Jenny Wall said as shoppers browsed her store.

She then gestured behind her building to a public parking lot.

“We’re sitting on a gold mine back here with a parking lot that could become a multi-level parking lot,” she said. “It’s the solution waiting to happen.”

Several other people who were interviewed downtown also talked about how they would like to see a parking structure, but the idea hasn’t gained much traction because of the high cost per space.

Asked what they thought of paid parking, most people interviewed were against the idea, saying it would make downtown less appealing for shopping.

“Every effort has to be made to make it easy for people to come down here,” Wall said.

As they headed to lunch downtown, Nancy Merrill and Barbara Hughes said Steamboat does have a parking problem when spaces are hard to come by. But they said it was only a seasonal problem that comes during peak tourist times.

Merrill and Hughes have adapted, though, choosing to park on Oak Street and then walking the few blocks to their destination.

“I come from a big city. We’re spoiled here,” Merrill said.

Merrill said she is most supportive of better utilization of existing parking lots like the one at Howelsen Hill over any other major change to the parking system.

Across the street at Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory, manager Audrey Zwak said parking hasn’t been too much of an issue for her customers because the candy store is on a corner with parking available on side streets.

But she said she regularly gets texts from her employees who run late to work in the afternoon because they have a hard time finding a parking space.

“Then they run around moving their cars during the day,” she said.

Zwak said her employees park on side streets.

The current Steamboat City Council appears more resolved than ever to make some changes to downtown parking to try and improve it.

Residents should have ample opportunities to weigh in during the latest parking study that will include public outreach sessions.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10