Vail Daily column: More parking needed for high-season overflow
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vail homeowners.com.
Responsibility for parking: Some are beginning to question whose responsibility it is to provide adequate parking. Vail Resorts is one of the primary beneficiaries of parking and one of the major causes of overflow parking on South Frontage Road.
While Vail Resorts has recognized its responsibility in the past by donating land for the construction of parking facilities, it has shifted the construction and management responsibilities of public parking to the town of Vail. Some are now questioning whether it is time for Vail Resorts to do more. So far, that has not happened, but absent voluntary action by Vail Resorts, there are other ways their responsibility can be addressed.
Vail Resorts operates its on-mountain activities under a Master Development Plan that requires approval by the U.S. Forest Service. That plan was last updated in 2007 and is now beyond its useful life; currently, a new Master Development Plan is being prepared.
One of the subjects of the earlier plan was guest and worker parking. As that plan recognized, adequate parking is a necessary component of proper management of mountain uses. As of the August 2007 update, it was calculated that there was sufficient parking for 8,400 users, based on an assumed 2.8 person per car. (If the more usual average of 2.2 persons per car were used, then there would be parking for 6,600 users.)
The Plan also recognized a “managed-to” number of 19,900 guests on the mountain, resulting in a significant deficiency in available parking. The update noted, however, that increased parking was planned by expansion of the Lionshead Village parking structure (200 cars) and the Ever Vail development (750 cars), and with those additions, there would be adequate parking for present and future needs.
Since 2007, the parking situation has grown much worse, and the inventory count in that update is no longer accurate. Due to development and other changes, the available parking has shrunk by several hundred spaces, down to about 2,700 spaces; expansion of the Lionshead Village parking structure is no longer being pursued by the town of Vail, and Vail Resorts has declared it is abandoning commercial development. Therefore, there is now parking for only between 6,000 (at 2.2 per car) and 7,560 (at 2.8 per car) users.
As a result, public safety is more at risk as the town’s use of South Frontage Road for overflow parking has continued to increase in both the winter and summer seasons. (The town of Vail only has parking rights on South Frontage Road during the winter season; it has no right to allow parking during the summer season, although it continues to do so.) The effects are spread to the Golden Peak area, as people searching for parking drive there to look for parking or to try to drop off or pick up others. This also creates unsafe conditions on Vail Valley Drive, where pedestrians accessing the Golden Peak ski base co-mingle with vehicular traffic.
The Vail Homeowners Association believes that it is past time to stop condoning overflow parking. The new Master Development Plan for the mountain should address steps that should be taken to prevent base congestion or situations that put public safety at risk. A realistic inventory of available parking should be conducted that excludes frontage road parking as an acceptable practice.
Vail Resorts has the ability to take necessary steps to provide adequate parking. It already owns several acres of land west of Lionshead (the Ever Vail project area) and could provide surface parking there until development occurs. With the addition of the already approved lift at that location, there could be ready mountain access for hundreds of guests. Vail Resorts could also work cooperatively with the town of Vail to develop more parking at other locations or in other ways.
The Vail Homeowners Association does not advocate a specific solution, nor do we believe that the U.S. Forest Service needs do so; the Forest Service needs only to require that more parking must be made available. Failing that, the “managed-to” number of guests should be reduced to bring that number into balance with the available parking.
The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.