Editorial: Shut down Lake Avenue in Grand Lake for pedestrian traffic
July 20, 2009
It was like a mini Coney Island in Colorado, with Buffalo Brats replacing Coney dogs.
Giant inflatable bounce castles on the beachfront volleyball court attracted youngsters in droves.
Next door, magic performed by the “Great Aragoni” captivated grade-schoolers as they sat on bark-beetle logs turned up as stools.
There were tents with merchandise, raffle-ticket sales, and other tents selling old-fashioned lemonade and homemade-wine concoctions. Food vendors sold Buffalo burgers, coleslaw, baked beans and local brew as the bandstand churned out live music throughout the day.
All of this took place with an alpine-lake backdrop. People frolicked on the beach, and out on the water, windsurfer, sailors, water-skiers, canoers and kayakers were a delight to spectators.
I have to say, Grand Lake – namely the town showing off its lake – has never functioned better.
The Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce this year took a chance at change. Chamber organizers and volunteers surpassed what they had promised.
Closing down Lake Avenue traffic and allowing the lakefront to become a pedestrian attraction created a summertime atmosphere few towns in Colorado could even come close to offering.
The lakefront in itself has always been special, but with Lake Avenue’s absence of cars clogging the roadway, it became both stimulating and relaxing – where parents didn’t have to worry about their children darting across the roadway from beach to park, or from Miyauchi’s (burgers and icecream) to marina arcade.
It makes sense to make the entire waterfront pedestrian-friendly.
In Grand Lake’s 2006 master plan, the lakefront is touted as being the town’s largest asset – a place where events such as last weekend’s Buffalo BBQ can mingle with beach activities already inherent to the town.
“The intent is to create a pedestrian plaza,” the master plan reads. It suggests repaving the street with interlocking concrete pavers so that it looks “more like a pedestrian promenade than a street.” The area would still allow vehicle access when needed – such as for emergencies, for food deliveries to the Water’s Edge and Miyauchi’s, and for private-access parking in front of the Lazy Moose motel rooms. The “promenade” could start near the lakefront public restrooms, allowing for continued use of the town parking lot across from the Grand Lake Yacht Club.
An unofficial survey I conducted on Sunday, which included a few businesses on Grand Avenue, found that businesses weren’t adversely affected by the Chamber hosting its festivities on the waterfront. Some owners said Saturday business traffic surpassed last year’s.
Visitors parking their cars a block or two away from the town core creates more pedestrian traffic downtown. Pedestrians are likely to explore what the downtown has to offer, and are more likely to diversify their spending dollars.
Grand Lake’s waterfront should become more pedestrian-friendly – a town move that would take into account the whole of the community and its tourism – making for less an exhaust-choked, traffic-clogged beach area that poses a hazard to those who enjoy it.