Our View: City needs leaders who will turn vision to reality

Glenwood Springs from the air last summer.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

On Tuesday, the Post Independent will endorse its favored candidates for Glenwood Springs City Council in the two contested races.

Before we do that, we’re taking some space today to talk about what we think the next council must do to move the city forward.

Longtime resident Floyd Diemoz, credited with helping form a citizens group that pushed state highway engineers to improve their plan for Glenwood Canyon, wrote recently in the Post Independent about 40 years of City Council failure to lead the city to a decision on a Highway 82 bypass.

Now, with more than 200 driveways along Midland Avenue, with a recreational trail and RFTA ownership blocking use of the rail corridor, and with costs for any new highway prohibitive, the idea of a bypass is little more than a festering sore.

It blocks rational discussion of a number of other issues because some residents’ hope for a bypass distorts reality and obscures consensus on a doable agenda.

It is emblematic of Glenwood’s propensity for hand-wringing and study over action.

To be fair, this is something of the nature of government, particularly with lawyers involved and as infrastructure funds dwindle. But Glenwood Springs can’t wait another four years, let alone 40, to act on a range of issues, most having to do with mobility.

So the City Council must get past the bypass.

We agree with at-large candidate Tony Hershey’s position that unless and until a majority of residents is clearly behind one doable route, it’s not worth the cost of the necessary environmental impact study.

We’ll go a step further and say that such a route and such a consensus are impossible to find, and the city should move on.

It has plenty of real needs that can be addressed that require community cooperation and allocation of scare resources.

Most immediate of these involves seizing the opportunity that will be presented by the new Grand Avenue bridge route to create a pedestrian-, bike- and tourist-friendly plaza north of the Colorado River.

The new council must move forward with planning for that even as it presses the Colorado Department of Transportation on ways to minimize downtown business impact during the new bridge construction.

Council must push the city administration and CDOT to work together to be creative and proactive in helping the town through construction — which is going to result in a few months of hell.

The bridge construction also helps put needed focus on alternate routes across the width of town.

The new council must find a way to make permanent the CDOT detour with a straighter Eighth Street connection to improve flow and aid plans to develop the area around the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. It must look at other ways for residents to cross town without adding to downtown traffic.

Also urgent:

• Pedestrian-friendliness for the sake of residents and tourists who fuel the economy. The council must twist CDOT’s arm until it changes light timing on Grand Avenue, particularly at non-peak times. Other pedestrian help is needed, whether it be a median for part of Grand or a way to cross without waiting for the light. This obviously is a pro-business imperative, as well as an important step in improving downtown’s ambiance.

• Developing the Confluence to create new housing and a new entertainment center — away from the noise and traffic of Grand. Most civic leaders in America would salivate to have one fabled mountain river running through their town. Glenwood has two that come together — yet that site is nearly hidden and does nothing to invite people there. Developing it is a huge opportunity to improve quality of life and boost revenue.

• The town needs housing that’s affordable for people who work here. In-fill is needed, the Confluence is needed, apartments for young people are needed, eventually, annexation is needed to the south — after street improvements are completed. Work must start on this within the next four years.

These are just some of the city’s needs and challenges, of course. These most urgent things are possible, though they won’t be free. This is where the next council must exhibit courage and leadership, must build partnerships and move ahead.

We have no doubt that Glenwood leaders have wanted to make good things happen, but have been stymied by lack of money combined with nettlesome negotiations, difficult partners and, at times, unwillingness to make neighbors unhappy in a small town. But of course not making a choice is still a choice.

This town already is a jewel of the Western Slope. It can, with some action connected to vision, shine ever more brightly.

Our endorsements Tuesday will go to those candidates we believe are best able to make that happen.

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