Will a summer bus route go to Ford Park?
VAIL — Parking is seen as a winter problem in Vail. But for several days every summer, parking in town can be difficult, especially in the Ford Park area.
Events ranging from softball games to Bravo! Vail music festival concerts draw thousands of people to the park. With only limited parking available, how to portion out that parking is a growing problem in town.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday agreed to the basics of a plan that will continue paid parking at Ford Park on several days every summer. But how that parking is parceled out will change somewhat.
There are three parking lots at the park just off the frontage road. The easternmost lot — 12 spaces — will be reserved this summer for staff members of the Vail Recreation District, Vail Valley Foundation, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Bravo! Vail festival. The western lot, the one closest to the Vail tennis center, has 47 spaces. This summer, that lot will be rented on a per-event basis by the various users. Those users have gotten together to hire VIP Parking Solutions, which will provide valet services at the lot.
Greg Hall, the town’s public works director, said valet parking will increase the lot’s capacity to between 60 and 65 spaces. Overflow parking will be directed to a Vail Resorts-owned lot at the children’s center at Golden Peak.
The biggest lot will provide event parking, with a $10 charge on event days and nights.
When there aren’t events at the park, parking in the west and center lots will be free to the public. On event nights, the lots will close to free parking at 4 p.m.
IN-TOWN BUS SERVICE
Representatives of the user groups generally supported the projects, but all made the same request — extend in-town bus service to Ford Park throughout the summer.
Hall said express buses run to the park on event nights and days, but he said everyday service throughout the summer would cost around $87,000.
Hannah Irwin, of the Vail Nature Center, urged the council to pay for the additional service.
“Every year I’ve been at the Nature Center, parking has been worse,” Irwin said. Adding that of 180 events at the center in 2014, parking was a problem for more than 60.
“I can’t overemphasize how much we need a bus stop on Vail Valley Drive,” Irwin said. “We need a bus stop that gives a free choice to get people to the south side of Ford Park.”
Nancy Rondeau, a longtime volunteer at the alpine gardens, also urged the council to find a way to provide free parking to the facility’s volunteer group, who work on Monday and Thursday mornings throughout the summer.
“It’s not easy work, and most of us are pretty tired when we’re finished,” Rondeau said. “I’d like to park conveniently, as would my fellow elderlies.”
FREE DAYTIME PARKING
Hall said the current plan leaves free daytime parking for all but two of those work days.
Council members seemed willing to consider additional bus service from the Vail Village parking structure to Ford Park throughout the summer.
“When you consider how much we spend on … stuff, we should run that bus,” council member Margaret Rogers said.
Fellow council member Dale Bugby agreed, saying that “in the summer, that ought to be the route.”
Council members asked Hall to come back with a cost estimate for the additional service within the next meeting or two. That service could be from July 1-Sept. 1, or might run from Memorial Day through the summer.
Hall said there could be more changes coming in future years. But what will remain is free parking at Ford Park the majority of the time. Bill Suarez a longtime town resident, restaurant owner and member of the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors, said free summer parking is simply essential.
Without free parking, Suarez said, “You’re basically telling people to stay away.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.