Council decided Tuesday to delay a decision until they could learn more about what traffic control personnel could be secured to help work the event. A final decision is expected on Friday.
Which street Steamboat Springs’ century-old Fourth of July Parade will travel down is still up in the air after City Council left open the possibility of returning the parade to Lincoln Avenue on Tuesday.
The parade had moved to Yampa Street in recent years amid heavy traffic on U.S. Highway 40 that was being rerouted through town around mudslides and closures on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon. But there has been a strong push by some locally to return the parade the Steamboat’s main street.
Council didn’t hold a vote, but was initially divided as they gave direction to city staff how to proceed on Tuesday.
Three council members — Michael Buccino, Gail Garey and Ed Briones — were all in favor of returning the parade to Lincoln. Council member Dakotah McGinlay wanted to delay a decision until later this week and members Joella West and Council President Robin Crossan felt it was too late to move the parade away from Yampa but wanted to plan ahead for a return to Lincoln next year.
With a shorthanded council on Tuesday (Council member Heather Sloop was absent) there was not a clear majority and council coalesced around McGinlay’s suggestion, which would allow the rest of the week to assess the capabilities of a traffic control company to assist with rerouting traffic on to Oak and Yampa streets if Lincoln were to be used. If the company could provide the 16 traffic flaggers that Steamboat Springs Police has recommended, then the parade could be moved. These traffic personnel are roughly expected to cost about $20,000, which would be paid for by the city.
“The deadline is Friday, If it is a go on Friday we will make an announcement and if not, we will make that announcement as well,” Crossan said.
Council was faced with dozens of people in the community asking them to return the parade to Lincoln — which Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Sarah Leonard said has been going for around 115 years. Of the comments included in council’s packet Tuesday, not one of them showed support for keeping the parade on Yampa Street.
“As we see this return to normalcy, that expectation is coming back. They expect events to be the way they were,” said Chris Dillenbeck, who owns F.M. Light & Sons on Lincoln Ave. “If you keep it on Yampa, great, it’s not as nice…. Be willing to spend the money for the traffic controllers.”
If the Chamber and city are able to secure a company to provide adequate traffic controllers, the parade would close Lincoln Ave similarly to how things were handled for Winter Carnival in February. Traffic would be rerouted on to Oak and Yampa streets during the event and staging for the parade would be on side streets down town.
Both Steamboat Police and Steamboat Fire Rescue expressed concern about their response times if the parade was held on Lincoln. When the main thoroughfare is closed, traffic often backs up on both sides of town and can make it difficult for emergency personnel to travel respond to calls across town.
“When you put a closure on Lincoln Avenue, it significantly decreases our ability to respond to the general calls we receive throughout the day,” said interim Police Commander Rich Brown.
“Where a small department, we require all of our personnel for a lot of our calls that we respond to,” said Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli. “Our concern very much lies in the delay in response, both potentially to a call on the west side of town and then responding back to the hospital.”
Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson said the Colorado Department of Transportation has concerns about holding the parade on Lincoln, but that they have not tried to nix the plan at this point.
“We may get to a point where they say we would prefer you not to, actually tell us not to, but I don’t think we have gotten to that point yet,” Leeson said.
Leonard said she had contacted a traffic control company on Tuesday and expected that she could get a firm commitment as to what that company could provide by Friday.
Multiple council members expressed frustration that this conversation was only happening two weeks before the parade and not months in advance to allow for better planning. Garey said she wanted to ensure that this conversation starts earlier next year — whether the parade is on Lincoln this year or not.
“I’m a bit frustrated that we didn’t revisit it earlier and that we are all in this box,” Garey said. “I think we can work collaboratively to get out of the box and make a solution that will work best for our community.”
Top Photo Caption: Steamboat Springs Fire and Police personnel have expressed concerns about the delayed response times that arise when Lincoln Avenue is closed through town. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)