Vail Valley Voices: Avon to take on looming challenges with parking
Vail, CO, Colorado
Public parking is an integral part of Avon’s ongoing transportation planning efforts. It is expected that in the near future, Avon will be faced with parking challenges as the supply of free public parking is affected by urban-renewal efforts and private development plans.
Avon’s comprehensive plan outlines the town’s goals and describes a modern, compact town center where pedestrians, bicycles and mass transit take precedence over the automobile. “Park once, shop many” is a key tenet to Avon’s redevelopment plans. Full pedestrian access throughout commercial areas linking restaurants, shops and lodges is the desired outcome.
Parking pressures are expected to increase from urban-renewal projects, the expansion of the Avon Recreation Center and Main Street commercial redevelopment.
Parking demands in Avon will also increase when Beaver Creek expands and starts charging for parking. Beaver Creek’s master plan includes new facilities, chairlift replacements, trail expansion and other improvements as described by Tom Allender of Beaver Creek Ski Co. in a December Avon Town Council meeting. As a result of these enhancements, the ski-area capacity will increase by about 18 percent, from 14,000 visitors per day to 17,000 visitors per day, and therefore there will be a correlated increase in the need for parking.
Allender also explained it is possible that one of Beaver Creek’s parking lots on U.S. Highway 6 will be converted into a hotel site.
“We have a requirement by the Forest Service to provide a certain number of parking spaces in our permit. We cannot decrease the amount of day-skier parking that we provide,” Allender explained. “However, we believe that in the relatively near term, we will be charging for parking … within five years.”
However, even with the Forest Service-imposed parking requirements, it is already a frequent occurrence that Beaver Creek’s parking capacity is exceeded during the winter months. Overflow parking results in cars parked along Prater Road, in the rodeo lot and along Highway 6.
As the parking pressures increase, both the town and the ski company expect to see increasing use of the Riverfront Gondola as a primary portal to Beaver Creek. Chairs 15 and 18 (Lower and Upper Beaver Creek Express) are already seeing increasing use as more snowmaking and increased grooming have improved the ability to enter and exit the mountain via the gondola. The ski-company improvements are expected to continue to increase the parking demand on Avon.
Avon wants to be sure that provisions for locals to park and access the mountain will remain into the future. Additionally, it is important that parking be available as commercial development expands and “park once, shop many” is a viable option for residence and guests alike. The town is getting serious about envisioning now because it will take approximately five years to plan, design and construct a new parking structure.
Due to local land values, space, and the desired aesthetic, structured parking within easy access to the town core is preferred over expansive surface lots. The town hopes to develop a public-private partnership and incorporate other uses into this structure such as street-level stores and upper floor residential or office space.
Avon is putting together a project called Connect Avon Now, which packages together bus, trail and public parking improvements to meet the town’s long-term transportation needs. This project recommends the creation of public parking in the existing town core area.
Connect Avon Now includes $20 million in funding to build a 500-stall structured parking garage, likely located near Avon Recreation Center and Avon fire station, where it could offer parking for local businesses and best link users to the mountain and ECO Transit. Such a location would also help achieve the town’s goals to achieve a vibrant downtown for the future Main Street commercial area. Connect Avon Now would also fund long-term operation, maintenance and repair of the parking structure.
More information about the future vision for transportation in Avon and possible funding strategies will be discussed at the Connect Avon Now public open house scheduled for April 29. You can also visit http://www.avon.org/ConnectAvonNow for more information or to comment on this project.
Jaime Walker, public relations officer for the town of Avon, can be reached at email@example.com.