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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat’s Fourth of July Parade detour was more successful this year. Was it good enough?

Traffic didn’t back up as far and first responders didn’t experience delays responding to calls with Lincoln Ave. closed, though the day is taxing for law enforcement.

In the hour before the start of Steamboats Springs’ Fourth of July parade, traffic had started to back up to Stockbridge Transit Center on the west side of town.

Amid the congestion, some drivers thought they may have seen a way out. One after another, drivers made a left turn from Lincoln Ave., around a road closed sign and up 12th Street. Waiting for them were several Steamboat Police Officers. Soon Detective Mikey Buccino and Officer Lisa Eifling had half a dozen drivers stopped and waiting for tickets.  

“People are going to drive through cones, they’re going to drive past signs, drive over curbs,” Buccino said. “I think we need to get the detour set up a little sooner. That left turn was immediately a problem.”

The left turn issue would end up being one of the few notable traffic problems Steamboat Police dealt with during the parade last week. While traffic did swell on both ends of town at times, members of the department say they did not have issues responding to emergency calls and that overall, they believe the parade detour was successful.

The Yampa Valley Bugle participated in an eight-hour ride along with Steamboat Police during the Fourth of July parade with the goal of seeing how the detour performed. Steamboat Springs City Council has considered moving the parade off Lincoln Ave., especially after last year’s Independence Day traffic led to it taking as long as 90 minutes to get from one side of town to the other.

Caption: This diagram shows the traffic plan employed during the Fourth of July Parade. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)

In December, Council decided to give the parade another go on Lincoln this year, as businesses on Steamboat’s main street said they saw decreased sales when the parade was on Yampa Street in 2021. The decision went against the Police Department’s preference to keep U.S. 40 open.

While this year’s parade was more successful from a traffic standpoint, that preference hasn’t changed.

“I think the actual implementation of [the detour] went well,” Steamboat Police Chief Mark Beckett said. “Ultimately, I kind of still say what I’ve said before, what I’ve been saying since day one. You can’t close Highway 40 without having significant traffic impacts and I think it is worth evaluating what this would look like on Yampa.”

The city’s hired traffic control company was missing several flaggers, though the company's owner stepped in to fill some of the gaps. Still, they were largely successful at keeping traffic moving. Their orders were to prioritize car traffic, only having pedestrians cross when it made sense with the flow of traffic.

Caption: Steamboat Springs Police Detective Mikey Buccino talks to a motorist who had driven past a road closed sign on 12th Street. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

The lane on each Oak and Yampa left open for emergency vehicles worked as hoped as well, allowing law enforcement to quickly move through downtown.

Police Commander Rich Brown said he thought the traffic situation went about as well as it could have. Traffic backed up as far back as Hilltop Lane on the east side of town and as far back as Stockbridge Transit Center on the West side, he said. When it came to responding to calls, Brown said he and two other officers were able to respond to the one emergent call they received during the parade without delay.

Still, he too agreed the city should consider moving the parade to Yampa Street in the future.

“The traffic congestion is just not going to clear up,” Brown said. “I still think we should consider moving it over to Yampa.”

While it may seem like a simple decision between putting up with traffic or moving the parade, Beckett said the Fourth of July in general has become demanding for law enforcement.

“The challenge isn’t necessarily that it’s the parade. The challenge is that I have to dedicate literally 100% of my personnel to the Fourth to cover the parade, the concert and drone show and the Pro Rodeo Series,” Beckett said.

Caption: Steamboat Springs Police Chief Mark Beckett directs traffic at the corner of Fifth and Yampa after last week's Fourth of July parade. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

Beckett said he moved officers from the concert at the base of Steamboat Resort to help at the Rodeo, which had as many as 3,000 people he estimated. They then moved back to the busy base area for the drone show, which Beckett said may have had between 5,000 and 6,000 people.

“There was a ton of fireworks [on the Fourth] and I had no personnel really to work those, because they were all dealing with the traffic congestion,” Beckett said. “To me it is a problem of resource allocation then it is a problem of the event.”

Beckett said one of the primary focuses of the police department’s strategic planning is to better prepare for special events. One aspect of that is the department's new Special Assignment Unit, which is currently “two and a half detectives and a sergeant.” Beckett said his long-term vision would have nine or 10 members on that team for special events and assignments.

“When we're not doing special events they can focus on traffic enforcement, DUIs, human trafficking, all the other missions that we need to also work on,” Beckett said. “I think that unit is going to be pretty special.”

Top Photo Caption: Steamboat Springs Animal Control Officer Jennifer Good, left, and Police Detective Mikey Buccino look for police line tape ahead of the Fourth of July Parade in Steamboat Springs. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mikey Buccino's name.


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