Detour applies to parade, too
Post Independent Staff
Patricia Braceland won’t have far to walk to watch this year’s Strawberry Days parade.
The floats, bands and classic cars will pass right by her door on Pitkin Avenue on June 18.
During a year when a lot of traffic is getting detoured through Glenwood Springs because of construction projects, the city’s annual parade entries are no exception. At the city police department’s request, organizers are moving the parade from Grand Avenue to Pitkin due to the extra strain Midland Avenue construction is putting on Grand.
“We can have a party on the front porch,” Braceland said after being notified that the parade would pass by her home.
The change marks the first time in at least several decades that the parade won’t go down Grand Avenue.
“I think it will still be a good time for everybody,” said Marianne Virgili, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, which organizes Strawberry Days. “It will be the same tradition, just a different locale.”
The parade normally runs south on Grand Avenue from Eighth Street, requiring traffic to be diverted at Eighth onto Blake Avenue.
Officials with the chamber, which organizes the Strawberry Days festival, consider the parade route change to be just one more road adjustment in a year of such adjustments. Grand Avenue was repaved during the fall and spring, and now is being hit hard by traffic that usually uses the Midland Avenue alternate route through town.
Police have been concerned that the Midland work has caused Grand Avenue traffic to back up onto Interstate 70, creating a potentially dangerous situation. The problem has been worst during rush hours, but has happened at other hours as well, as when a minor accident occurred last week on the Grand Avenue bridge.
“We were really worried about all the traffic backing up on I-70 and somebody getting hurt and killed,” said chamber events director Shiela Mugford.
She said moving the parade route was “kind of a joint decision” with police.
“When they start throwing safety at you, how do you argue with that, especially when you’re supposed to be having fun,” she said.
Said police chief Terry Wilson, “I don’t think closing Grand Avenue for two and a half hours is a real good idea right now.”
The parade still will stage at its normal location, at Eighth Street and Colorado Avenue. However, it then will head from Pitkin to Glenwood Springs High School, a few blocks shorter than the normal route.
Former Glenwood mayor Don Vanderhoof, a retired banker who grew up in town, said he remembers the parade running once from south to north on Grand, rather than north to south, but doesn’t recall it ever being held on another street.
Willa Soncarty, registrar for the Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood, said she believes the Grand Avenue parade tradition goes back at least as far as just after World War II. Soncarty said records show that at least once, in 1915, the route wound along Grand and several side streets downtown, which may have reflected the city’s size at that time.
“It’s like anything, when you’ve got a town about four blocks long, you’ve got to make it work,” she said.
Today, Pitkin offers the only good alternative to Grand as a parade route, Mugford said. Blake Avenue is too hilly, she said.
As for Pitkin, “We looked at it, and it’s actually shady there and really kind of pretty, so it’s kind of a great parade route.”
Still, the chamber would like to see the parade return to Grand Avenue.
Wilson said he’s just taking it “one parade at a time.” But he’d be thrilled if Pitkin proved to be a good place to permanently relocate the parade.
“That would be really cool. I would love it if people would tell me it’s a really good change, because it’s a bear taking traffic off Grand. It’s a really brutal process doing it,” he said.
Vanderhoof said he understands the reasons for moving the parade this year, but added that it’s going to throw a kink in plans that a lot of Grand Avenue businesses make for watching the parades from their curbsides.
“We’re so used to having it on Grand Avenue that it’s going to take some reorganizing our plans for that day,” he said.
Pete Crow, co-owner of Downtown Drug, won’t get to watch the parade from his storefront this year, but said he supports moving the event.
“I guess you probably kind of have to,” he said. “There’s no place for anyone to drive right now.”
The decision doesn’t mean a loss of business for him that morning. It usually shuts down so employees can watch the parade, he said.
Braceland said she’s glad the parade still will go on despite the city’s traffic issues. She isn’t worried about any short-term inconveniences, although she said it would help if the city would designate a place for Pitkin residents to park their cars during the event.
Braceland is far more concerned about the traffic backups that are forcing the parade’s move.
“I think what’s going on on Grand Avenue is an absolute mess,” she said.
She said the backups are forcing a lot of vehicles onto Pitkin, where some drivers speed, endangering children and pets. She also runs a business downtown, and customers are having trouble getting there due to the traffic congestion. Braceland said she hopes the backups spur the city to more aggressively seek solutions to moving traffic through town.
Wilson said the Colorado Department of Transportation addressed the short-term problem Monday morning by lengthening the green-light times on Grand Avenue going south, to help smooth upvalley commutes. However, traffic still backed up onto I-70, he said.
He said police will be directing traffic at the bottom of the ramp at Exit 116 this morning, to help move cars off the interstate. Police didn’t work the exit Monday morning so they could see if the lengthened traffic signal times would suffice, he said.
Wilson said pedestrians also should be aware that they will have to push the walk button to get a signal to cross intersections at Grand downtown, so cars aren’t forced to stop when no one is there.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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