Tourism leaders stress the positive during bridge work
Ensuring that visitors not only continue to come to Glenwood Springs during the two years of Grand Avenue bridge construction but that they can find their way around town once they get here is a key concern for local tourism officials.
One of the main messages Glenwood Chamber Resort Association leaders and many owners of tourist-oriented businesses want to get across to their employees and to the residents of Glenwood is to “keep it positive.”
“This will need to be a collaborative effort in order for this to be successful for the community,” chamber President and CEO Marianne Virgili said Thursday during a roundtable discussion among chamber and city tourism promotion board members and others on Thursday.
Virgili said the chamber is planning to produce a “road construction survival guide” to have on hand at the downtown Visitor Information Center and other locations around town.
It will not only inform people how to make their way around the downtown area in particular during the construction, she said, but educate them about the project to replace the 62-year-old bridge structure that connects Highway 82 to Interstate 70.
The guide will include maps pointing to available parking and pedestrian routes, shuttle and bus options, as well as the strong message that businesses located near the construction zone are open.
“We are really excited about this project, and we view this as an opportunity for the chamber to come to the plate on behalf of the community,” Virgili said.
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool President and CEO Kjell Mitchell said the pool has been preparing for some time for the impacts the bridge construction is already creating.
“There’s a misnomer out there that the bridge impacts won’t be for another year, but it’s really happening for us right now,” he said.
Starting Feb. 1, the west parking lot at the Hot Springs Pool will be closed for two years and will be used as the staging area for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s construction contractors.
In anticipation of that, the Hot Springs Pool bought the vacant former Bighorn Toyota dealership lot west on Sixth Street for parking. The pool will run a continuous shuttle from a half hour before the pool opens every day until a half hour after it closes.
“We believe this bridge is going to be a great thing for Glenwood Springs,” Mitchell said, adding the pool, health club and lodge will have information posted about the project to let guests know what’s going on.
“We know our guests will be inconvenienced, but it’s all about educating them, satisfying their needs and providing alternatives to make their stay enjoyable,” he said.
Make no mistake, the bridge replacement is a huge project and with it will come significant impacts on the way visitors and locals alike get around town and plan their day, said Acting City Manager Andrew Gorgey, who facilitated the meeting.
“This is about as impactive a project as this community will ever have,” he said. “Our choice in dealing with that is to stay positive.”
In addition to the various stakeholder groups that are meeting regularly, including members of the downtown business community and residents, major employers, emergency services personnel and river users who will all be affected, the city is working to make sure all municipal and county government managers from Aspen to Parachute and east along the I-70 corridor are in the loop.
“Our entire mentality with this project and the leadership team is to have an intelligent and adaptive approach to deal with issues as they come up,” Gorgey said.
The closure of some of the on-street parking along Seventh Street during the first weeks of construction work has already proven challenging, especially with the heavy snowfall so far this winter, several of those at the table Thursday noted.
The city, chamber and business groups are working to create a map of available parking in the downtown area, including under-utilized parking lots that are available in some of the fringe areas.
Tourism Board member and Glenwood Adventures owner Ken Murphy said it will be important to make sure people have a good experience once they get here, and not make a big deal about the bridge work before they arrive.
“Making downtown a little more easy to get around has to be our focus,” he said. “As soon as it gets stressful, people are going to say that’s it, I’m going back to Denver and not coming back because it’s a mess.”
Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Leslie Bethel said the DDA plans to invest a fair amount of money this year in sprucing up Grand Avenue and the downtown area in general and make it more attractive for visitors.
That will include $65,000 worth of new flower pots and planters to place along Grand, Cooper and Sixth streets. The DDA is also working to erect informational kiosks on either side of the bridge, which will have a temporary walkway alongside it after the pedestrian bridge is removed this spring to make way for a new one.
A longer-term detour communications plan is also being developed by the bridge project public information team for the three-month period in late 2017 when the current Grand Avenue bridge will be demolished and a Midland Avenue/Eighth Street detour in effect while the final segment of the new bridge is being completed.
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