Bridge greeters help tourists through village

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Sitting in the driver's seat, Marian Little escorts Marianne and Bernie Sulivan around the construction of Vail Village in a golf cart informing them of which stores are open and which are not Tuesday in Vail.

A trip to Vail Village doesn’t usually come with a guided tour. For the past three weeks, though, Marian Little has happily provided visitors to the village with service and a smile.

For the past few weeks, Little, along with Eva Castillo and Justin Picken, have greeted visitors who wander out of the Vail Village Transportation Center toward the Covered Bridge. The bridge re-opens Thursday after being closed for the past three weeks for utility line and deck replacement.

For Little, who has been driving tourists into the village with one of the electric carts usually used to shuttle concert-goers from the Ford Park parking lot to the amphitheater, re-opening the bridge means the end of her job. Castillo and Picken, though, will still be on hand to guide visitors around the construction zone on lower Bridge Street. That work is scheduled to end by late June.

Castillo and Picken are part of a small group of greeters who have provided information about this spring’s Vail village streetscape project. They’ve also offered tips on how to get around and where to go.

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“A lot of people want to know what restaurants are open,” Castillo said. “We have maps and a list of what shops are open, too.”

Picken is technically a flagger for B&B Excavating, the firm doing the work in the village. With his right foot in a cast, though, he’ll occasionally flag trucks through the intersection of Bridge Street and Meadow Drive and help Castillo point people in the right direction.

Picken, a long-time local resident, teaches skiing and yoga, among other things. Except for the cast on his foot, he just about exactly fits the mold of flaggers B&B has hired for the village construction project. The group of roughly six village flaggers are winter employees in Vail, so they know about both geography and customer service.

People wandering toward the bridge are greeted with a friendly “Can I help you?”

Picken is also one of numerous people working the village streetscape project and said he’s happy to be working in May.

“The state I’m in now, this is about the only thing I could do right now,” he said.

Castillo, who works the Popcorn Wagon both winter and summer, also said she is happy for the interim work, as is Little, a New Zealander who’s waiting for another work visa. Her current visa allows her to drive the cart for the town.

“Every day I go around and see what’s open and what’s closed,” Little said. “Then I can tell people.”

Little’s normal route goes from Bridge Street west along Meadow Drive, across the International Bridge and along Gore Creek Drive. If her passengers know where they’re going, she’ll just drop them where they need to be. Otherwise, she’ll get them as close to Bridge Street as she can get.

“It’s been fun,” she said. “I’ve met people from all over the world, people who have been to New Zealand, or who want to go.” And Little is happy to tell them about both her native land and her new hometown.

Along with the rest of the construction crews, Little, Picken and Castillo have mostly enjoyed good weather. The last weekend in April was the exception, though.

The greeters at Bridge Street were able to get out of the weather thanks to a shelter at the bus stop. But that shelter didn’t stop the cold.

“I put on everything I could that day and it still wasn’t enough,” Little said. “I’ve never been so cold.”

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