Editorial: Steps to take as we put our best foot forward | PostIndependent.com

Editorial: Steps to take as we put our best foot forward

Let’s learn from the plywood.

In years of planning and in making promises to Glenwood Springs to work to minimize the harm to downtown commerce of the $126.5 million Grand Avenue bridge project, the Colorado Department of Transportation failed to include an adequate plan to help mitigate visual impact.

So, for example, in tearing down the old, separated pedestrian bridge and affixing a temporary walkway to the traffic bridge, it didn’t occur to anyone to add specs for a barrier to keep vehicles from splashing walkers on wet days. When it became obvious that would be needed, the contractor slapped up some plywood.

“It was available and cheap,” explained project spokesman Tom Newland.

Of course things that are available and cheap often are ugly and tacky.

Not wanting to rely on our own lay opinion of the aesthetics of the barrier, we sought the opinion of Christina Brusig, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts.

“Oh, I think the plywood is hideous,” she said.

OK, big construction projects are not pretty, granted. But CDOT is an agency serving the public that does this type of work all the time, knows better than locals the disruption they cause and should have found a way to include, say, $50,000 (four-tenths of 1 percent of the project cost) to help things look a little better over the two-year length of the project.

Now, it appears, we will be stuck with the plywood until the new pedestrian bridge is completed in March 2017.

On the bright side, the plywood and other early aspects of the project that have alarmed downtown business proprietors have spawned an effort to create murals that can be moved round to give locals and visitors some visual relief.

CDOT has approved an effort to do that, which will be led by the Center for the Arts and PR Studio, the contract project communications leader.

“We’re on a mission to beautify this town,” Brusig said. Materials need to be tested for the mural project and about $25,000 is needed, with the hope of having something done by May. We strongly urge CDOT to check its couch cushions to help make up for its planning failure. (We know; CDOT will say it can’t possibly come up with more money, and it will fall to locals. That doesn’t mean it should.)

Construction or not, Glenwood has guests coming this summer, and while their experience is going to be different because of the bridge work, the town still must prepare its front door — downtown and the riverfront — to look the most inviting that it can.

These folks are important to our economy and the survival of our merchants. Amid the construction, we want to give them reason to stay this year and come back next summer.

So beyond creating the movable murals, more can be done — such as the revival of a community July 4 celebration. Kudos to the organizers behind that. Some other suggestions:

BAN SMOKING

As we urged last summer, ban all smoking at least in the downtown area, if not also in city parks and on public trails, as do Boulder and Fort Collins.

The Glenwood City Council asked months ago for an ordinance to be drafted on this but hasn’t acted. It should before Memorial Day.

Banning smoking accomplishes a few things. Most importantly, it supports the town’s family-friendly ambiance. It borders on disgusting to encounter clots of smokers while walking north of Eighth Street on the wing streets or on Seventh Street, and could be flatly intimidating for some families, depending on the smokers in question.

A ban also would give the town some positive PR as a destination that cares about its residents and visitors, which could help offset concerns about construction.

Finally, it would ease enforcement of the law banning public consumption of marijuana. No longer would a pot smoker be able to cover up by lighting a cigarette.

Yep, the Glenwood police would need to enforce this. City Council can and should insist on it.

FOOT PATROLS

Amid discussion last year about how the city might address increasing vagrancy and panhandling, councilors added a police position in this year’s budget.

While it’s hard to hire police officers in the Roaring Fork Valley and not instant to train them, it should be a priority for a Glenwood officer or two to be out of their cars and patrolling the downtown area on foot or bike on summer evenings.

Of course those officers would need to respond to emergencies in other parts of town, and it would require changes in police scheduling and patrols. That’s understood. It’s not a reason to say we can’t do this to enhance the comfort level of locals and visitors seeking to spend money downtown.

CLEAN UP

Assuming enforcement of the smoking ban, downtown would have fewer cigarette butts littering sidewalks. Other steps are needed.

Merchants who want inviting business fronts need to sweep and occasionally wash the sidewalks in front of their operations. Summertime is drinking time, and that can lead to messes. Don’t leave those visible.

If we get rid of the cigarette butts, the smoke and the puke, all that’s left is the pigeon poop in the city parking garage at Ninth and Cooper. Glenwood may not be able to get rid of the birds — that’s a challenge anywhere.

It can get rid of nests in the structure and it can send workers to regularly clean up the steps and pavement.

We have visitors coming. Let’s be the best hosts we can be and try to make lemonade when life hands us plywood.


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