Parking policies set for ski season
There should be more free parking – and more parking spaces in general – in Vail this ski season.Under policies passed by the Vail Town Council Tuesday, motorists will get an hour and a half of free parking in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking garages, free parking in both garages after 3 p.m., and two new, temporary parking lots in Ford Park and Lionshead.The goals of the new policies, approved in a contentious 4-3 vote, are to keep cars from clogging the South Frontage Road and free up spaces for the shoppers some argue are scared off by the congestion on busy ski days.Fewer days on Frontage RoadGreg Hall, Vail’s public works director, says the days when cars are parked on the Frontage Road should drop significantly this ski season.”We would go from 35 days last season to 15 days this season,” Hall said.The policies, which were slightly amended Tuesday night, were drawn up by the town’s parking task force, which includes Town Council members, merchants, residents and representatives of Vail Resorts.Council members Bill Jewitt, Greg Moffet, Chuck Ogilby and Rod Slifer voted in favor of the policies. Mayor Ludwig Kurz and Councilman Dick Cleveland, both members of the task force, voted against the policies because of changes made by the council Tuesday night. Councilwoman Diana Donovan also voted against.Rate hikesRegular, hourly parking rates will increase significantly – double in some cases – at the two parking garages. For example, the rate for parking all day – from six to 24 hours – will increase from $13 to $16.Skiers and snowboarders will find cheaper parking – if space is available – at two, new outlying lots, as portions of the Ford Park softball fields will likely be converted to a parking lot and Vail Resorts is opening up a lot next to the Lionshead Marriott.Skiers and snowboarders will pay $10 to park in either of these lots, though Eagle County and Vail residents will be eligible for discounted rates. Both of those lots will have about 200 spaces, but the Ford Park lot only will be open on busy days and holidays.Vail Resorts employees who used to park in the Marriott lot now will park across the Frontage Road at the company’s maintenance yard, which is being retrofitted for that purpose.Skiers and snowboarders also will be able to park free in various locations throughout the town, such as along stretches of the North Frontage Road in West Vail, Red Sandstone Park, Stephens Park and the trailhead at the East Vail interchange. Most of those areas are near bus stops.This gives skiers and snowboarders a price range, said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain and a parking task force member.”Guests have a minimum of three choices,” he said.Parking pressuresOver the past few years, business owners have complained there hasn’t been enough space for shoppers who aren’t also skiers and snowboarders. To that end, the number of spaces on the top decks of the parking garages where shoppers can park for three hours for $3 has been increased. Those spaces will be increased to 60 from 40 in the village and to 25 from 20 at Lionshead. The fine for staying for more than three hours in those spots, however, also will go up, from $26 to $50.Merchants over the last few seasons also have complained about the town’s difficulty in telling shoppers there are spaces in the garages, especially on busy days when some potential customers were scared off by the line of cars along the South Frontage Road. The town has pledged this season to put up more signs and make more current information available to shoppers looking for a parking space.Council members disagreed Tuesday on whether to give drivers an hour or an hour-and-a-half of free parking. The task force had proposed only an hour of free parking for most drivers.Do shoppers need more time?Nicole Hoffmann-Ewing, though she was a member of the parking task force, argued to give shoppers more free time.”You really can’t do much in an hour in town,” said Hoffmann-Ewing, general manager of two Vail shops, the General Store and the Rucksack.The parking task force had proposed an hour and a half of free parking only for patrons of Dobson Ice Arena and the Vail library, both of which are owned by the town. Jewitt said that proposal wasn’t fair.”Why does government get treated better than the private sector?” said Jewitt, co-owner of Bart & Yeti’s in Lionshead. “If it takes an hour and a half to do business at the library, it can take an hour-and-a-half to business at Verbatim Booksellers, Bart & Yeti’s or one of the ski shops.”An hour and a half is where it begins to make sense,” he added.Donovan, however, said she thought an hour and a half of free parking was “going overboard” and the town should stick to just one free hour.”It’s meant for errands, not to go shopping, have dinner and buy Christmas presents for the universe,” she said.But the return of the Free After Three program made most council members and members of the public happy.”We are thrilled to have Free After Three back,” said Kaye Ferry, former director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association.Village employees this season, meanwhile, can again buy the $50 Pink Pass, which lets them park in the garages and Ford Park during the week. This year, the Pink Pass also may be valid at the lot next to the Marriott.Parking in the parkCouncil members also clashed Tuesday over whether Ford Park should become a skier parking lot in the winter. There also has been opposition among the public to parking cars in Ford Park, which some view a vital patch of open space.”This is a totally inappropriate use of open space,” said Jonathan Staufer, a Vail merchant. “You might as well have built 500 condos there back in the “70s.”Staufer said a better solution would be to figure out how to encourage downvalley skiers and employees headed for Vail to ride the bus more conveniently.But Donovan, who also opposed parking at Ford Park, said she’s not bothered by the parking on the South Frontage Road.”I still think there are many, many opportunities to make the Frontage Road safe,” she said. “We don’t have the guts to tackle that.”Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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