Minturn Market reshuffles parking plan
At least that’s what real estate representatives of Union Pacific, the Omaha-based railroad company that owns the Minturn Railyard, seem to think. They sent a letter to the Minturn Town Council this spring announcing that they were doubling the rent at the railyard, which is used for overflow parking on farmer’s market days.
Minturn Town Treasurer Jay Brunvand said Pacific Union’s real-estate division asked for $12,000 for the use of the dirt lot, up from $5,000 during previous years.
Rod Peterson, of Union Pacific’s real estate division, refused to elaborate on the company’s reasons for the big increase.
“I can’t comment. It’s our policy,” he said when reached in his Omaha office.
Town officials and merchants said they were taken aback by the request, but not necessarily surprised:
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– “I’m the last person that would not try to make some money on something I own. That’s why they call me the treasurer here,” Brunvand said.
– “I think they have a new person that deals with their real estate and they must be thinking that piece of land is worth a lot more than what we pay them,” said Minturn Mayor Earle Bidez.
– “It would be nicer if they would share, but it is their property,” said Georgette Van Buren, who owns the Eagle River Trading Company, a local antique and interior accessories shop. “I thought it was mean. But again, it is their land.”
Bidez said the council didn’t spend much time entertaining the idea of spending an extra $7,000 on the railyard. The town is stretched to its limit with $1.25 million in annual operational costs, which are covered by sales and property taxes, he said.
“We didn’t even consider it,” he said. Despite the market’s success, the council told the railroad company to find another tenant.
“It’s all about money, but that kind of increase isn’t reasonable, at least not for Minturn,” Bidez said. “The market is good for us, but it doesn’t make us rich all of a sudden.”
Held every Saturday from June 22 until Sept. 14, the Minturn Market has grown from a dozen booths in 1999 to more than 80 this summer. It was started by the Minturn Visioning Committee to reinvigorate the small town’s shopping scene.
The market’s success can be seen in the estimated 20,000 visitors it attracted over a 13-week period last summer, adding an estimated $15,000 to the town’s coffers.
The market has become so popular, it has inspired the neighboring tourism behemoth of Vail to start its own version of a farmer’s market this June 23.
Needless to say, the Minturn Market’s success has town leaders pleased.
“I just love it,” Van Buren said. “It is so much fun, and the positive exposure is wonderful for Minturn.”
Without the market, Brunvand said, the $250,000 that Minturn collects in sales tax every year would likely drop.
“It’s not just what we collect from booth sales,” he said. “People who come to the market have dinner here or drinks, and hopefully come back – maybe because they discovered a new store they like.”
The extra attention is invaluable, local merchants believe.
“The market is extremely important to me,” said Rebecca Callender, owner of Antique Accents in Minturn, adding that market days are among her best sales days.
Without the approximately 90 parking spaces at the railyard, town staff and market organizers briefly struggled before coming up with an alternative that at least some believe will ease congestion and add convenience.
When the municipal parking lot fills up, market visitors this summer will be directed to park at the Holy Cross Ranger District Station’s lot about a mile north of Minturn near Dowd Junction.
Two buses will continuously shuttle shoppers from the parking lot to the market from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“It is probably for the better. I’m not concerned about changing the parking plan,” said Minturn Police Chief Lorenzo Martinez, who in years past has directed motorists to the railyard as early as 10 a.m. after the municipal parking lot’s 90 spaces filled up on market days.
“As I see it, parking at the railyard is pretty hot and dusty. The Forest Service lot will be a lot more convenient because it gets people to the market faster than if they have to wait in line to get in and out of the municipal parking lot,” Martinez said.
Liz Campbell, Minturn’s special events coordinator, said the new parking plan will also free up as many as half of the spaces at the municipal parking lot by assigning vendors parking spaces elsewhere in town. Additionally, market organizers encourage town residents to walk to the market and out-of-town visitors to share a ride.
Callender said she plans to leave her car at home on market days.
“It’s all about convenience, guest parking comes first,” she said.
People coming from Red Cliff and beyond, will be asked to park in a vacant lot next to the Minturn Shop ‘n’ Hop.
Even if the new parking plans promises to be more convenient, market organizers and local merchants can’t help but wonder if parking a mile outside of town won’t deter visitors from coming.
“It is really not an inconvenience,” Van Buren said. “It’ll be a good thing, once people get used to it. But change is always hard.”
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org