Anyone who has traveled through the town of Winter Park recently can see that changes are happening. Once considered to be one of Colorado’s best kept secrets, allowing locals and visitors to enjoy the peaceful serenity of the mountains, it is evident those days are now gone. As more and more adventurers seek refuge in the mountains of Colorado, Winter Park and the Fraser Valley have risen to become one of the most desirable mountain locations in the state.
With growth comes the need for responsible planning, because the last thing anyone wants is to see is the town transformed into something that resembles a giant strip mall. Seeing that need, the Town of Winter Park began work on creating a vision: Imagine Winter Park, that would move the town forward in the right direction for many years to come.
In 2017, members of Town Council, the Planning Commission, Town Staff, a Steering Committee comprised of local business leaders, and, a consulting firm engaged for guidance worked on development of the new Plan. Over the past year, the team has sought input from the community through various workshops, explored best practices of other communities similar to our own, and, worked together to create a long-lasting vision for the town.
On September 25th, the Town of Winter Park hosted an informational session that introduced the draft of the town’s new Master Plan. Last updated in 2006, the updated plan factors in the town’s existing features and conditions while looking to the future in an effort to implement well-balanced results that make the best sense for the town and the community.
The purpose of the new Master Plan is to provide a guiding policy that aids in making decisions on land use, development and redevelopment, public services and facilities, and economic development. It is intended to be both visionary and practical. The Plan will be reviewed annually and updated periodically to continue to reflect the vision and priorities of the community. Implementation of the Town Plan will require further action from staff, Planning Commission, Town Council and partners, as necessary.
The Master Plan is broken out into 7 sections:
Our Plan introduces the Plan itself, defining the purpose and the need for update, outlines the Plan’s elements and summarizes the planning process;
Our Town Today elaborates on the town’s existing conditions and looks at trends for the future;
Our Character and Culture: One Winter Park: a town with diverse cultures, economic opportunities, and architectural styles that fosters a strong, unified, and forward-thinking community;
Our Global and Local Connectivity: a community linked with majestic physical attributes, connected with state of the art technology, integrated with safe walkable places and diverse transportation linkages, and characterized by seamless connectivity to both the natural and technological environment;
Our World-Class Outdoor Recreation: A recreation-based community anchored by a national ski and mountain bike resort, that provides a wide range of unsurpassed outdoor activities for everyday enthusiasts to live, work and play;
Our Healthy and Thriving Environment: An outdoor community physically linked to a healthy and thriving natural and human environment; and,
Our Path Forward provides a monitoring and adaptive framework to implement the vision, principles and strategies identified in Sections 3-6.
The sections of the plan were outlined on presentation boards and placed on easels throughout the upper level of the Headwaters Center, and, approximately 50 members of the community in attendance were encouraged to rate each section and give feedback to help the Town finalize the document.
Overall, most in attendance found that the Community Vision themes reflected their vision for the future of the town ‘very well’.
The Character and Culture section received mixed reviews, some felt it ‘hit the mark’ while others felt it ‘needs to be refined’. Feedback included emphasis on outdoor recreation, viability of higher education, the need for more affordable housing options within town limits, relocation of the proposed health care facility to a more accessible and practical site “if even necessary”, stated one attendee, and, creation of a fenced dog park.
The subject of attainable and workforce housing received a lot of feedback. Some of the comments included strategizing for middle income residents who do not fit the “affordable” criteria requirements, holding developers accountable to include varied levels of unit pricing, creation of a tiny home village, and imposing limits on the number of nights short-term rentals can be occupied.
When asked for input on new features and attractions, comments included creating a Disc Golf course in the forest with more technical components, a mountain bike skills course, more public art, and, a fenced Dog Park. “Don’t let private interests cut off access to public spaces” said one attendee.
On the subject of Global and Local Connectivity, most found the strategies to ‘hit the mark’. Comments included adding more year-round transportation options to and from DIA and downtown Denver, concerns with backcountry connectivity, the need for the town to complete a sub-area plan with more detail for ‘Main Street’ development and expanded parking solutions for town and at the resort. Respondents were split on whether to implement metered/pay parking on Highway 40 and on building another parking structure. Use of public transit and improved/added bike lanes were suggested as alternatives.
The section on World-Class Outdoor Recreation was also found to have mostly ‘hit the mark’ and comments included the need for pedestrian and bike lane/trail improvements. One attendee noted that trendy “Dockless Bikes are a bad idea”.
Our Health and Thriving Environment was the section many found to ‘need refinement’. Concerns with overdevelopment and available water as well as the impacts on wildlife were expressed. Support was given to becoming a Dark Sky community and to engaging local businesses in waste management, elimination of straws and single-use plastics. Formalizing camping on Vasquez Road was also encouraged.
The Town will continue to accept input through October 5th and all members of the community are encouraged to go to wpgov.com/imaginewp to review the full plan and submit comments. The final Plan will be presented to the Winter Park Planning Commission at their meeting on October 23rd, and on to the Town Council for approval on November 20th.