Breck goes easy on parking
BRECKENRIDGE – Call it free parking or call it locals appreciation month, but either way, the Breckenridge Police Department won’t be ticketing drivers for over-staying their welcome in time-restricted downtown parking lots this month.But it’s back to normal as of June 1, said Chief Rick Holman, explaining that the enforcement rollback doesn’t extend to other restrictions, such as illegal parking in disabled spots or parking too close to street corners and hydrants.According to Holman, parking industry experts say establishing consistent patterns and regulations is crucial to gaining compliance. A seasonal policy, with May known as free-parking month, meets that goal, he said.The town council spurred the move during its May 10 meeting, when several council members pointed out that May is by far the slowest month of the year, and that it doesn’t make sense to issue tickets when parking spots abound. For now, the intent is to follow this same policy each year during May, at least in the foreseeable future.The vibe during the council work session was jovial, but at the same time, elected officials and town planners acknowledged a critical long-term need to address downtown parking issues in a meaningful way. The goal is to make sure there is turnover, ensuring a steady flow of customers to retail establishments and eateries.”We’ve got to get a handle on some of the abuse by employees,” Holman said, referring to the persistent problem of local workers using up many of the convenient close-in spots. Behind the scenes, town officials are working on a parking plan intended to address the issue, said town of Breckenridge spokesperson Kim DiLallo.”It’s very critical that everyone work with us so that we can avoid paid parking. Everyone benefits when there is turnover. If we don’t have that, we’ll have to look at paid parking again,” she said. “It’s really touch and go. This summer will be a period when businesses can prove themselves,” she said, adding that there is also free parking all summer long in the Dredge Lot and F Lot. The new lenient parking policy won’t affect the town’s effort to collect unpaid parking fines, Holman said. During the first few weeks of an announced crackdown of parking scofflaws, only a handful of people stepped forward voluntarily to pay their fines, he added.The parking issue in Breck will probably stay on the front burner since Vail Resorts plans to start charging parking fees for the lots close to the new gondola loading station, slated to come on line during the next winter season. Some town officials have said that might drive more visitors to seek out free spots downtown.Pay-parking advocates in Breckenridge cite the success of similar policies in Aspen and Telluride, while critics like to say that Breckenridge is a unique community that shouldn’t try to imitate its tonier resort cousins.Aspen recently rejected an expansion of paid parking into residential areas near its downtown core.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.
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