Summit County considers safety improvements to Dillon Valley neighborhood
After nearly a decade of appealing to Summit County officials to make improvements to their neighborhood, Dillon Valley residents are starting to see signs of change.
At a work session meeting on Dec. 8, the Board of County Commissioners gave the go ahead for county officials to assess the cost and engineering feasibility of a variety of proposed improvements for the neighborhood.
Since around 2011 Dillon Valley residents have been asking for the county to improve walkability, reduce speeds and create community gathering spaces in the neighborhood. While some improvements have been made, such as a designated bike lane throughout the main roads of the neighborhood, residents are still worried about cars speeding through an area that is densely populated with families.
At the Dec. 8 meeting, Kate Berg, a planning consultant contracted with the county, presented a neighborhood improvement plan that includes a trail system connecting the neighborhood to other destinations, a variety of “pocket parks” on county-owned parcels and measures, such as speed bumps and signs, to slow traffic.
Although residents have been asking for change for several years, Berg said feedback from the Dillon Valley Vistas planning process and the results of public health’s Communities that Care survey in 2019 are what led to the current improvement plan.
“All of the sudden there was all this input from Dillon Valley residents saying that they would like the county to take a look at these neighborhood-wide issues of vehicle speeds (and) of creating safer walking and biking paths within the neighborhood,” she said.
For residents of the neighborhood, the proposed changes are a long time coming.
“The highest number of people who live here year round live in Dillon Valley,” said Emily Mulica, a Dillon Valley resident who has advocated for the changes since she moved there in 2011. “When I go for a walk, it just doesn’t feel safe. In our county, especially in a neighborhood like ours where it’s really dense, people should feel comfortable walking around the block.”
In addition to the safety improvements, residents are hoping that the county will be able to create a community gathering space. As of right now, the only park in the neighborhood is the playground at Dillon Valley Elementary, which the public isn’t able to use during school hours.
Initially, residents wanted to see the Dillon Valley Vistas lot be used as a park or other gathering space. Since that space is taken up, the county is looking at a series of parcels along Straight Creek which are owned jointly by the county and the Dillon Valley District.
“The county is saying they’re willing to work collaboratively with the Dillon Valley District to look at developing a trail corridor along the creek and look at the possibility of creating some little pocket parks,” Berg said. “But there’s no single property that’s larger than a third of an acre, so it would be smaller pocket parks.”
The issue, as with any publicly funded project, is the budget for the project, which would either be included as an amendment to the 2021 county budget or as part of the 2022 budget. A lot remains unknown about the novel coronavirus pandemic’s impact on future county budgets. So it could be that not all of the improvements will be made to the neighborhood.
For example, the county won’t be able to build paved sidewalks in the neighborhood, as it does not have the infrastructure to pay for the maintenance and improvements of sidewalks after they are built, Berg said. Instead the proposed trail system will likely be unpaved.
“The biggest thing for the county now (is) looking at evaluating options that will work and will provide the safety improvements that the residents are looking for, but won’t require a significant cost to construct, a significant cost to maintain over time,” Berg said.
Whether or not the county will move forward with the improvements to the neighborhood will be decided by the newly-elected commissioners, who will be sworn in on Jan. 12. Mulica said she’s hopeful the commissioners will work to have improvements made sooner rather than later.
“There’s been a real sentiment amongst the residents here that the county solicits our feedback but then doesn’t actually listen to it,” she said. “I think (Berg) did a really great job of synthesizing all of the feedback that has been received … and turning it into a very thoughtful document. Now, she has done her part of the work, can it be more than just a pretty binder with nice ideas on the shelf?”
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