Starting Memorial Day, visitors to Boulder’s Chautauqua Park will need to pay for parking or ride a bus to the destination. KGNU’s Roz Brown says Boulder City Council last night voted to extend a pilot program it launched last summer to ease congestion at the popular park.
Chautauqua is a national landmark on Baseline Road but in recent years cars circled the 26-acre Chautauqua Park non-stop looking for a parking space to hike the Mesa Trail, picnic on the lush grounds or enjoy a meal at the dining hall. The city’s test program last summer included paid parking and free shuttles and will continue this summer for 15 weekends. City of Boulder head traffic engineer, Bill Cowern said opinions about the project were divided.
“I was nervous about this project but it wound up being a great proposal. The idea of having people pay for parking through a mobile application – the first time in the city – it not only reduced the number of parking kiosks we needed but alos the cost of the program.”
Charging drivers last summer also reduced traffic. City staff said when the pilot program was in effect, there were 50 fewer cars reported in the area of the park per hour, per day. Starting Memorial Day Weekend this year, and continuing through Labor Day Weekend, people who elect to park at Chautauqua and on certain streets nearby will need to pay two-dollars and fifty-cents per hour. Cowern says long-time residents living near affected zones will also pay for Neighborhood Parking Permits instead of receiving a free permit as they did last summer.
“That fits the city’s pay for parking approach.”
Neighborhood resident Michael McCarthy was the only speaker at last night’s public hearing and believes the cost of a parking permit will be worth it.
“I’m fine with it and I think my neighbors will be too. As I told council, it’s a diminution of the tension in the neighborhood because you often can’t find a place to park and people are circling the neighborhood looking for a place to park. That was reduced by this program.”
Free bus shuttles from various satellite parking lots will also ferry people to Chautauqua on 9th Street. An average of 900 people rode those shuttles daily last year. McCowern says this year the shuttle schedule will start an hour later in the morning, 8 a.m. rather than 7 a.m., to accommodate residents on the heavily traveled 9th Street.
“The thing that we’re trying to do is minimize the noise – that was a big negative – the noise from buses in the mornings. So we’ll be shifting the hours, trying to use quieter buses and then determine how much those buses are positively contributing to the program.”
The Chautauqua parking program will be in effect for five years as work continues on the future of the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks program. A key question for the program’s future is how to address crowding at popular places similar to Chautauqua Park.