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Debate Continues Over Chautauqua Parking Program

Posted: April 5, 2017 at 11:00 am by , in Breaking News, Featured, Morning Magazine

Boulder City Council is trying to address the difficult issue of how to fix the parking problem at the historic Chautauqua Park on west Baseline Road. A pilot program to ease congestion is scheduled this summer but as Roz Brown reports it will be expensive and won’t be a perfect solution for anyone.

Cindy Schmidt, president of the Colorado Chautauqua Association board of directors says it is both a blessing and curse that Chautauqua is right next to one of the busiest and gorgeous trailheads in the country. As a result, she says Chautauqua has essentially become a parking lot for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department.

Chautauqua is known for its world-class concerts, lectures and silent films, as well as a restaurant and lodging. But many residents and even more visitors go there to hike from the park’s trailhead. To address the problem the city has come up with a pilot program for this year’s summer months that includes paid parking and a free, dog-friendly shuttle that picks park users up from satellite lots and ferries them inside the park’s entryway.

“Chautauqua dates back to 1898 and has a cultural landscape that we have a responsibility to preserve,” said Schmidt.  “The city is our partner in that and since this is a pilot program and should be an experiment to solve a problem, we feel we should try something far less intrusive than the proposed, modern seven-foot high parking signs posted every 100-feet inside the property.”

Chautauqua sees as many as 5,000 visitors per day. That means there’s no way the 300 parking spots inside the park can accommodate them all. In the early 1900s a trolley made round-trips between Chautauqua and downtown Boulder.  Schmidt says a new version of the old trolley might solve a lot of problems.

“We would love to see a trolley – we’re not talking about rebuilding the tracks but now there are many cities that rent gasoline-powered trolleys and it’s fun for people, attracts more visitors and gets them out of their cars,” said Schmidt.

In discussing the $800,000 pilot program Tuesday night the Boulder City Council appeared to be leaning toward weekend-only paid parking in certain areas around Chautauqua. A public hearing will be held April 18th.