Rocky Mountain National Park Workshop

Darla Sidles, Superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Kyle Patterson, Public Affairs Officer, presented the trustees with a general park overview on Tuesday afternoon. 

Superintendent Sidles stated they were able to get Trail Ridge Road open by the first week in June, but not without challenges presented by the winter and spring snows. “There’s a lot of snow up there, it’s pretty incredible.”

As experienced on the east side of the park, home prices in Estes Park have increased significantly. Sidles said a number of job candidates had declined offers because they were unable to find a place to buy or rent. Last year’s visit by Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, prompted some funding for additional housing units, after he’d seen the “abysmal housing” allocated to park staff. But, with 150 year-round and 250 seasonal employees, it is still far from adequate. 

Kyle Patterson talked about park visitation and use. She said that, since 2012, there had been a 42% increase in park visits, with nearly 4.6 million in 2018. “We are the 3rd most visited National Park, just behind Great Smokies NP and Grand Canyon NP.”

The park is focused on providing every visitor with a good experience, but with daily visits approaching 10K+ per day, many of the park attractions require longer wait times. Patterson showed pictures of congestion on the roads and at the Alpine Visitor Center. “We have been using shuttles since the 1970’s, but we continue to realize it can’t be our only tool,” said Patterson, adding, “there are hour+ waiting lines at times”.

They are working on a Day Use Visitor Access Strategy (DUVAS) and interagency planning. A robust communication strategy is also key. 80% of the park visitors come through the east entrance. Pushing out messages to convince visitors to enter via the western entrance, to Plan Ahead, carpool, hike early or hike late are helping spread out visitors. “Steps we are taking now are pushing impacts elsewhere.”

Other projects and accomplishments in the park include a major paving project on the east side, a finding of no significant impact for their exotic plant management plan, prescribed burn planning with the Forest Service, development of an acceleration and deceleration lane for Grand Lake Lodge, working with the town of Grand Lake on water clarity and working with Rocky Mountain Conservancy on fundraising to rehabilitate and reopen the Shadow Mountain Lookout. 

Superintendent Sidles told the trustees there were no plans to expand the campgrounds at the park. “We don’t want to be in competition with our neighbors.”

“Day use visitors are the main challenge. Striking a balance between multi-day users and day users is our goal.” They also continue to look at other agencies with successful day visitor management plans. Shuttles tend to surge people onto trails, so while they are a useful tool, they are not the answer to increased crowds.

In closing, Sidles said, “We appreciate your enthusiasm and support of the park. It is ours to enjoy for many decades to come.” 

In other town news…

Dan Cokley, with the town’s engineering firm, SGM, told the trustees the Public Works Manual had been submitted mid-June and was in review. Cokey had also spoken with Lance Badger, Granby Ranch VP of Real Estate Development. Badger confirmed they had mobilized construction for Cumulus Road on Monday and would begin “tearing up asphalt” on Wednesday. Cokley was unable to say whether the construction addresses drainage concerns, but said he would check on that.

The public hearing for the updated model Traffic Code was continued to the August 13th meeting.

The second reading of the application for franchise by Public Service Company of Colorado was approved unanimously.

The trustees unanimously awarded the contract for paving of the South Service Area Water Treatment Plant to local contractor, Acord Asphalt, Inc. The town had budgeted $85K for the work, and the bid came in at $81,756. Town staff will perform the site prep prior to the work start and also the striping, when the asphalt work is completed. Work is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Ordinance 913, amending the Municipal Code with the addition of new Title 11, Parks and Recreation, was approved unanimously. Town Code Enforcement Officer, Rich Carlson, was instrumental in the development of the new code.

At the trustee’s request, Dave Naples of the Moffat Road Railroad Museum appeared before the board to discuss the state of affairs at the museum. In order to fulfill the museum’s vision, Naples told them it would take approximately $737K. Most of the funds would come from donors and grants, but it is an ongoing process. “I need time and bodies,” said Naples. He added that his donors are quite generous, but that some donations come in for specific items and his nonprofit status does not allow the funds to be used for other purposes. The trustees were open to helping the museum fund some of the improvements needed to open its doors, and looked to Naples for a synopsis of the requirements as well as a plan for succession. Naples said that he, along with other museums in the county were meeting with the County Manager on Wednesday to discuss the formation of a Museum District. This could allow the museums to benefit from a .009 mill levy to help with operating expenses. The discussion will be continued at a future meeting.

After last summer’s failed attempt at speed control by placing an illegal speed bump on their roads, the Grand Elk Owners Association came before the board with a plan for improved safety in their neighborhood. The homeowners had worked with Police Chief Jim Kraker to develop the plans, which include the addition of speed bumps (removable in winter) on Wildhorse Drive and Ten Mile Drive, seven painted pedestrian crosswalks, adding stop signs at intersections where they are missing and several solar-powered flashing signs to remind travelers of the posted speed. The goal is to encourage travelers to utilize Thompson Road and discontinue use of the neighborhood shortcuts. At a total cost of $17,294, the trustees approved allocating the funds to the association for improved safety unanimously. Public Works staff will work with the homeowners on installation of the traffic-calming elements.

Several members of the community attended to meeting to continue the discussion on the downtown murals. Mayor Paul Chavoustie told them the item had been moved to the July 23rd meeting, and that a Public Art policy would also be discussed at that meeting. Town Manager Aaron Blair stated he would also include information on creating a Public Arts Committee, patterned after the Town of Fraser.

Mayor Chavoustie opened the discussion saying the town had sponsored the mural festival with a $5,000 contribution, with a theme that had been communicated as ‘‘drawing on the beauty of our Colorado mountains, unique wildlife and the Colorado art scene’.”I think we were under the impression it would be similar to last year’s mural.” The mayor added he was 2,000 miles away at a memorial service for his parents during the festival. “I got a text showing some of the murals and my impression was the building owners weren’t happy with the murals. I sent a message to the town manager to paint over any murals the building owners were not happy with.”  Hearing that many planned to attend the board meeting to share their insights on the murals during public comment, the mayor cut his trip short and returned home that day. 

“When I drove in, I saw Main Street. Some of it was beautiful.” Mayor Chavoustie said the mural at Lionhead Coffee fit closest to the town’s theme. He said the feedback he has received has been about 70/30 to 80/20 positive. “Going forward, it has to be a public process.”

During public comment, Mary Pat Himes, told the trustees she learned about the event from an article in 303 Magazine. “Denver got more information than Granby,” she said. “I think it’s important that residents have input.” Himes told the board that she had not talked to anyone that liked the murals. “Most people that have been here a long time, we feel like we got bowled over. It is provocative, but why do we have to be provoked? Why do we have to be faced with something we either like or hate? My biggest problem with it is the toothpaste is not going to go back in the tube and we are going to have to live with it for a long time.”

Amy Kaplanis, owner of Country Ace Hardware, said “I think what it’s shown me is, similar to my business, this town is growing so fast it has exposed our Achilles heel. I would ask, as a business owner, think about the bigger picture. We all need to get on the same page. What happened to our vision? This seems to be a departure from where i thought we were headed. We all need to know where we are headed and we need to make someone uphold it, so that everyone is held accountable to the same standards. As we get bigger, we have to think bigger.”

Mayor Chavoustie agreed, saying “The mixture should say ‘this is granby’. He suggested holding vision sessions with residents to help define the town’s vision. “We need participation. We need to have public input. I am 150% in favor of everybody being included.”

Local business owner, Autumn Bishop, said, “There has to be extra care to engage the stakeholders.” She told the trustees the murals were a complete departure from the branding. “When we invested here, we were super excited about the branding, “ she said, adding, “you have to be consistent with your brand.” She suggested studying other town’s approaches to mural art. “Art can be provocative. A lot of times, it is in response to something. We don’t have to, just for the sake of it. It’s contrived.” Bishop also pointed out the potential for confusion in differentiating between a mural and a sign. The town has a sign code, but murals are yet to be defined. She told the trustees she would love to be part of the arts committee. Bishop also suggested the town conduct a survey of residents. Mayor Chavoustie thought maybe they could include it with the water bill.

Mayor Chavoustie thanked the attendees, saying “Your comments have been incredibly valuable and helpful. At the meeting on July 23rd, we are going to talk about this and a public art policy.”

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