Community weighs in on Breckenridge’s pedestrian-only Main Street
BRECKENRIDGE — When Breckenridge Town Council passed a resolution approving the closure of Main Street to motor vehicle traffic and opening it to pedestrians and outdoor shopping and dining, Town Manager Rick Holman noted that roughly half of the 30 eligible restaurants with liquor licenses expressed interest in participating.
As of Monday, town spokesperson Haley Littleton said that number rose to 22.
The closure, which is set to begin June 12 and last for about eight weeks, is planned for Watson to Jefferson avenues, but a partial closure extends south to 400 S. Main St. with access for residents, according to Town Clerk Helen Cospolich.
Following the decision, business owners and residents in Breckenridge have responded with a wide spectrum of opinions. Some believe it will bring much-needed business and promote physical distancing while others think it will give some businesses an unfair advantage and create traffic and parking issues.
Richard Snider — owner of Daylight Donuts, which is north of the closure area — said he was concerned about the traffic and parking issues the plan could cause. He said he gathers much of his business from morning drive-by traffic, which he worries will not continue if people can’t drive straight down Main Street.
He said he wishes there had been better communication from the town.
“I feel like they took a very small sample size,” he said about the restaurants the town reached out to as part of the decision-making process. “You’ve got a percentage of a percentage of a percentage of people that were for it, and it still went through.”
Snider said he would have preferred the town reach out to more restaurants for their opinions. Snider’s wife, Jessie Snider, expressed concern that businesses not in the closure area might have to deal with nuisances like decreased parking and increased traffic on side streets without the benefit of additional outdoor space.
“It’s not just parking. It’s not just traffic,” Jessie Snider said. “It is the fact that all of these other businesses get left out. It’s making it so that they are not allowed to start out on the same footing as these other businesses within the closures.”
On the opposite end of town, Sara Cox, owner of The Crown, said she is excited to see how the closure works.
“I know that this has always been something that the town has been doing for years, and so I think it’s a good opportunity for us to check it out,” Cox said. “Talking with some of my fellow business owners, everyone feels optimistic.”
Cox said she has applied to be able to put tables out onto the street.
According to Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes, the town will require participating restaurants to use tables and stanchions rented through the town in collaboration with the Breckenridge Tourism Office. Restaurants can put out four tables and stanchions at a cost of about $350 for the entirety of the planned closure.
“The whole purpose of closing Main Street is to be able to maintain social distancing, and so … the end goal is to be able to give people space,” Cox said. “The end goal wasn’t to close down Main Street for tables on Main Street. The end goal was to close down for social distancing and that was just an added value, adding the tables. We want to have a vibrant tourist impact this summer, but we also want to do it safely, and that’s why I support it the most.”
A Facebook post on One Man’s Junk Summit County asking Summit County residents what they think about the closure received 128 comments. Several commenters called the closure a “great idea,” pointing out how they have enjoyed similar pedestrian walkways in other towns.
Angelica Cardenas said “it will be beneficial for restaurants and retail,” and Dori Welch said in a Facebook message that she will personally visit Main Street and provide business more often when it is pedestrian only.
“As a business owner on Main (Street), I think it’s a safe way to ease back into welcoming tourists. Typically, when Main (Street) is closed, our business goes down, but at this point nothing is normal,” Lori Tracy Maphies said in a Facebook comment.
Other commenters pointed out potential parking, traffic and weather issues. Ryan Lundqvist said that frequent afternoon rainstorms in the summer will be an issue with people eating outside. Hampton Gewin called the idea “short sighted and ill thought” and James Franklin said the closure is irresponsible with the construction of the new parking structure on the South Gondola lot.
“Sounds like a knee jerk reaction to a problem that doesn’t even exist yet,” Todd Schroeder said in a Facebook comment. “Think about traffic movement on July 4th, during the Ullr parade, Oktoberfest etc. That is the traffic pattern we are going to deal with every day? For how long? So tables can be set up in the middle of the road. This doesn’t seem to be very well thought out.”
To address parking in Breckenridge, Haynes reported in an email that paid parking will begin June 12 with 2019 rates and that it will be free to park in the Tiger Dredge lot after 3 p.m.
As for retail operations, Kathy Christina, president of the Breckenridge Retail Association said retailers are generally optimistic about the closure. She said the majority of retailers interested in participating are planning to put some of their merchandise outside but were mainly concerned about weather. Christina said these retailers are finding ways to be able to move merchandise inside quickly or cover merchandise in the event of precipitation. She said tents haven’t been a major concern.
“Logistics were the key component of all of this Main Street closure,” Christina said. “People are overall happy with it; they just need to move through the mud. The retailers are happy about being open. They’ve made great strides in the online accommodations and trying different hours. … They’ve done a fantastic job working through the changes with the town, and I think everybody’s excited to just go do their thing.”
However, Jan Magnuson, owner of Breckenridge Main Street retail business Creatures Great and Small, commented on the Facebook post that the store is not in favor of the closure due to store data that shows a decrease in sales corresponding with Main Street event closures.
“Many retailers are not in favor of this proposed closure and have written the mayor and Town Council expressing their views,” Magnuson said in the Facebook comment. “Now is not the time to experiment with an idea which lacks the support of the full business community.”
Frisco also plans to temporarily close its Main Street to motor vehicle traffic, opening it only to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The plan is to allow local merchants to temporarily expand their operations into public patios, streets and parking lots, and the town is helping restaurants get state approval to sell alcohol in the new spaces.
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