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Town approves agreement with library district to allow public parking during U.S. 160 reconstruction


On May 7, the Pagosa Springs Town Council approved a parking license agreement with the Upper San Juan Library District, which will allow the public to utilize a graveled lot, accessed from U.S 160, west of the Ruby Sisson Library building.

The agreement is part of a larger puzzle to find alternative parking spaces during Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) main street reconstruction project. 

CDOT revealed, at several public meetings, that parking throughout downtown would be sacrificed in order to keep two lanes of traffic open during the construction.

The future parking area is a former CDOT maintenance yard, “and the majority is graveled and ready for parking,” states an agenda document on the matter.

Community Development Director James Dickhoff explained that the lot could accommodate up to 60 free parking spaces on the western edge of downtown, expressing that the lot might best be utilized for parking by employees of downtown businesses.

“It’s not that remote, and it’s directly related to the trail and has sidewalk connectivity, so it’s not that far removed,” he said.

He added, “It may not be as convenient as parking in front of a store, but it may be a good location for employees to park and have a short walk to work versus a transit ride or something like that.” 

The agreement would allow the town to use the library’s lot, without a fee, as long as the town maintains the lot during its active use. 

The town will be responsible for “directional signage and ensuring protection of areas where parking should not be permitted,” as well as providing additional gravel, if needed, and a certificate of insurance to cover the liability for use of the property, the agenda document states.

“Additionally, the Library asked if the Town would consider installing signage for their main paved parking lot that would guide non-library guests to use the gravel lot during the reconstruction project,” the document states.

Dickhoff suggested that he thought this was “a reasonable request.” 

He added that town staff has visited the site to see “what it’s gonna take to really get this up to speed, so that we’re not parking people in the mud.” 

He added that the lot is already graveled, for the most part, but it will probably take some grading and some additional gravel to get it ready for public usage.

It is expected to cost the town approximately $12,000 to prepare the lot for public parking, mainly for gravel and signage, Dickhoff explained.

These costs, he said, “may have to come out of reserves in some fashion. We can figure that out later, maybe.” 

Town Manager David Harris noted that it may need to be “part of our big ole’ mid-year [budget] shuffle,” with council member Gary Williams suggesting that it may be a “perfect expenditure” for the Pagosa Springs Area Tourism Board to cover. 

“I would suggest that we ask tourism for the money to cover the signage and the gravel,” Williams said.

Harris and Dickhoff both added that there’s another, second lot being considered to provide parking during the main street construction.

Dickhoff explained that town staff is also working on a plan to convert the “west corner of the athletic field” at Town Park, which is mostly “an unused area,” into a parking area, and that this would also be coming in front of the council soon as a “concept plan.”

“We can get about 67 to 70 [parking] spaces in that corner ... we believe that’s gonna be a really important location, because it’s smack dab in the middle of downtown” and it could “really alleviate those lost parking spaces during construction,” he said.

However, Dickhoff explained that creating parking spaces at this location would be considerably more expensive than the library location. 

In light of CDOT’s project being temporarily delayed, with construction now slated to begin in 2025, Dickhoff recommended that the lot by the library be opened sooner rather than later, “so people can start knowing that it’s available.”

“We’re trying to encourage business owners to really think about where their employees are parking, and this might be a good lot for that to start occurring so that they get in the habit ahead of time,” he said, saying that he wants to get it open this summer. 

For its part, the library board approved the parking license agreement on April 16. 

Council member Madeline Bergon commented that this kind of partnership is “exactly what we wanted to see when we started tasking staff with figuring out parking options.”

However, she added that she has some safety concerns about turning in and out of the library lot, saying that she just wants to make sure that car and pedestrian traffic have the proper signage and direction all around the lot to meet her concerns. 

Williams recognized the library board, saying that he appreciates its cooperation with the town “to help solve this critical problem.”

When a motion was made to approve the parking license agreement with the Upper San Juan Library District, it was seconded and approved unanimously by the council.