Breckenridge community weighs in on idea to keep Walkable Main Street open into fall
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the extended timeline business owners can participate in the survey.
BRECKENRIDGE — There has been a largely positive response from residents and business owners to the idea of extending Breckenridge’s Walkable Main Street into September or beyond.
After Breckenridge Town Council discussed the idea at its last meeting, the Breckenridge Tourism Office put out a survey asking business owners and managers to provide their thoughts on the idea. The survey asks whether they support extending the vehicle closure into September, what their forecasts for business are and whether they plan to keep their businesses open through fall and winter.
As of Wednesday morning, the survey had received 30 responses. The survey closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 26.
Business owners had various things to say about the closure but are generally OK with the plan.
Isaac Edery, owner of High Attitude Custom T-Shirt Shop, said in an interview Wednesday that he is happy with Walkable Main and would be fine with it continuing, though he said it has not had a significant effect on his shop. He also noted that he doesn’t think there has been much of a parking issue as a result of closing the street to vehicle traffic.
Tim West, owner of Breckenridge Outfitters, said the closure has not affected his business directly because the door to his storefront does not sit on Walkable Main. However, West said the closure has been positive for restaurants but negative for retail establishments.
Sami Reese, who works at Crepes A La Cart on Breckenridge Main Street, said in a Facebook message that she might not have a job had the closure not been enacted. Reese said leaving the street as a pedestrian walkway is a great idea.
In response to a post on One Man’s Junk Summit County, Lori Maphies, owner of Marigolds Farmhouse Funk & Junk, said she is in full support of extending the closure. Since Marigolds reopened June 1, she said the store has been busy every day and that foot traffic and sales are in line with or above previous summers. Although she wouldn’t say the closure is causing sales to increase, Maphies said it definitely hasn’t had any sort of negative impact on her business.
“I fully support (keeping the closure) through the fall at least because nobody knows what’s coming,” Maphies said. “We just try to take it day by day and stay safe. … I really support all of the decisions that have been made in council.”
Maphies added that reopening Main Street to vehicle traffic could cause sidewalk crowding with lines forming outside stores when capacity is reached. She said it could cause a problem if all passersby were on the sidewalk rather than able to walk in the street as they are now.
Many Facebook users expressed that they wanted to keep Walkable Main at least through fall. While some people said it shouldn’t stay through winter, others advocated for making the closure permanent.
“I think during the summer is great but not during the winter, no,” Christina O’ Hearne wrote in a comment. “I’m glad businesses are doing better, but people who actually live in town are seeing the worst of it: construction on every street, no parking enforcement. Residents absolutely should be included in discussions.”
Alternatively, Michael Halouvas wrote, “Make it permanent, I say. It’s good for business owners and tourists! Will be even better once the parking lot gets finished!”
There were also a few people who argued against the closure, such as Craig Peterson, who commented that he paid a premium price for a property on Main Street.
“If the town thinks they’re closing off my traffic year-round, it needs to be on a ballot with a payment allowance for the diminished value not having vehicle access to the place,” Peterson wrote.
Matt Crandall said in a comment that trying to park in Breckenridge has been “exhausting.”
Kat Johnson was concerned about traffic, particularly during ski season, and suggested in a Facebook message that an underpass be built to help people get from one side of town to the other.
“While I love the idea to have it be similar to 16th Street Mall or Pearl Street, what will it do to the traffic?” Johnson wrote. “It already is a constant issue. Add ski traffic and no (one) is going anywhere.”
Seven-year Breckenridge resident Hal Vatcher, who serves on several advisory committees, said that for years he has thought Walkable Main would be good for the town and thinks the concept “works” for Breckenridge, though he said he isn’t sure whether the closure would help businesses in winter.
“My impression right now, just talking to people … everybody seems to like the freedom, the openness, the safety almost of being on Main Street,” Vatcher said.
Vatcher also said he thinks residents are finding Walkable Main very convenient aside from the parking piece, as people can no longer park directly in front of businesses within the closure area. However, he said he likes the idea of reducing traffic and pointed out that while the closure takes away parking spaces, a new parking structure at the South Gondola Lot is being built. He said that if the closure were to become permanent, the town could consider making nearby French and Ridge streets one-way.
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