Town council discusses Hermosa Street traffic circulation

The Pagosa Springs Town Council is looking at options to help improve traffic circulation near Cotton Hole Park, as well as possibly provide some parking for the park.
While the area has been used as a park for years, improvements in recent years and the plan for a multiuse trail through the area have spurred the effort to improve access and traffic circulation in the area.
“The Cotton Hole area along the San Juan River at the end of Hermosa St. and Hermosa Alley has been used as a river access point/park area for fishing, tubing, rafting and recreation for many years. A wave feature was completed a couple of years ago and it is a popular spot for fishing and river access, especially in the summer. In order to formalize the public park area and ensure public access, in 2017/18, the Town worked with property owners to purchase property. This was done to establish and preserve Cotton Hole Park and to provide access for a multi-use trail,” an agenda brief on the topic prepared by Town Manager Andrea Phillips explains.
The multiuse trail is slated to run from Town Park along the south side of Hermosa Street to Cotton Hole Park and up to the 1st Street bridge and will be paid for partially by a $400,000 grant through a State Trails grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“Unless Council directs otherwise, the future of Cotton Hole Park will remain as passive recreation uses with limited improvements. The desire from staff and the adjacent property owners is to retain natural vegetation, including as many cottonwood trees as possible, and to keep the park natural,” the agenda brief explains.
The brief further indicates that design and engineering are nearing completion, with a goal of bidding the project this winter for construction in 2020.
“During the time that staff and the engineer have been reviewing the design for the trail, the challenges of vehicular traffic and circulation in this part of the Town have been further discussed. It makes sense to try address both at the same time to prevent having to go back to make improvements later. As there are two dead-end roads (Hermosa St. and Hermosa Alley) leading to the Park, there is no improved right of way. This is an older section of Town and the roads were not constructed to current standards, which would require a turn around or other through access option,” the brief states, indicating emergency vehicles can’t turn around or properly park, there is trespassing in the area because public and private spaces are not delineated, maintenance vehicles do not have good access, and there is no ADA access to the park.
Phillips, engineer Mike Davis, Public Works Director Martin Schmidt, and Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis went before council on Oct. 17 seeking feedback on a pair of ideas for improved traffic circulation and parking in the area, with Phillips telling council that she still needed to engage more residents based on the direction received at that meeting.
The first of the options presented was a cul-de-sac at the end of Hermosa Street that would allow vehicles, including fire trucks and larger vehicles, a place to turn around.
The option also proposes eight parking spaces and an ADA-compliant ramp/stall providing access onto the trail.
“The benefits of this option are that: 1) it creates a small parking/access area to the park and trail, 2) preserves east and west bound traffic on this block of Hermosa St., 3) is less expensive than the other option. Negatives to this option are that it does not address the Hermosa Alley connection or circulation through the park. Also, based on feedback from the adjacent property owner, this option is not preferred. They feel that this creates too much of a dip or impact into the natural area of the park. In addition, some of the old cottonwood trees would need to removed. Estimated cost for the cul-de-sac access area is $65,470,” Phillips’ brief summarizes.
Schmidt also noted that the option is completely on town-owned property and would not require any easements.
The second option presented proposed a one-way road beginning at the eastern side of 2nd Street and Hermosa Street, going through the park and connecting with Hermosa Alley, which would also be a one-way road to 2nd Street. It also includes a small parking area with six parking spaces.
“The trail and road are still curving somewhat but does not dip as far into the park as the cul-de-sac option. There is an ADA ramp to access the trail from the paved lane, as well as some proposed parallel parking spots along it,” the brief explains, indicating that the option would require an easement from an adjacent property owner.
The agenda brief further explains: “This property is in the flood way and structures are not able to be placed on it. The benefits of this option are that: 1) creates full access to the park with some parking and ADA access; 2) addresses traffic circulation by connecting Hermosa Alley and Hermosa St., thus improving general traffic circulation in this older part of Town, and 3) has less of a hard surface impact proximate to the adjacent private property where their house is located. More trees may be able to be preserved with less of a hard surface impact. Also, on-street parking spaces may be available on the block of Hermosa St. with removing a travel lane. The negatives for this option are that it is more expensive than Option #1, and, if this block of Hermosa St. becomes a one way east of the 2nd St. intersection, residents will have to use the one way to access their properties and will no longer be able to go west-bound on Hermosa St. Estimated cost for this option is $81,825 ($16,355 more than Option #1).”
Schmidt noted later in the meeting that the town is considering paving Hermosa Alley in the future with Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program funding, which would mean the alley will become a one-way road anyway.
Following presentation of the options, council discussed the project for more than an hour.
In that time, council members questioned the impact of a one-way street on residents, that the one-way option would then require additional improvements on Hermosa Alley, if parking at the site is necessary or if it could be located elsewhere since the goal of the project is to build a trail to the area, that improvements to the area would increase traffic, that some of the parking and trespass problems could be addressed through signage, an increased need for snow removal and more.
“I dislike both ideas,” council member David Schanzenbaker stated, noting that the project is trying to force 21st century standards on an area that wasn’t meant for that and that he wants to look more outside the box for a solution.
Davis noted that the project is an opportunity to be more proactive and doing nothing would be kicking the can down the road, and Schmidt later added that the one-way road through the park solves the problems with both dead-end roads that currently exist and that most of the use at the park is along the riverbank and not where either option is proposed.
Lewis also proposed the town could take a step back and let the usage determine the next step, but that the town would have to be ready to react and have funding ready to go.
In the end, council directed staff to take the two presented options and two new options to the Hermosa Street residents for input.
Those new options include a roundabout to allow vehicles to turn around at the end of Hermosa Street, but with no parking spaces, and the cul-de-sac at the end of Hermosa paired with a small box turn area at the end of Hermosa Alley.
In other business at the meeting, the council:
• Voted down a motion to appoint Jeff Posey and Anne-Marie Sukcik as planning commission members and Bill Hudson and Mark Weiler as alternate members, with the council opting to hold off on appointing new members to the planning commission until all four candidates could be present at a council meeting.
• Heard a report from Schanzenbaker, who sits on the Transportation Planning Region board, and Public Works Director Martin Schmidt that construction on McCabe Creek could begin in 2021.
• Approved reallocating prior funding awarded to the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation for a data analytics study to instead be used for broadband development work by the organization.
• Approved a letter for a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant application for funding to help with master planning of the site that formerly housed the sewer lagoons.
• Heard a third-quarter financial report from Town Clerk April Hessman.
Hessman’s written report states, “Most end of year fund balance estimates are very close to what was originally budgeted with the exception of the capital fund, where some projects are not being completed in 2019.”

This story was posted on October 31, 2019.