The Cost of Closing Parks Roads to Cars

Photo Credit: City of Colorado Springs

This is our 3rd blog in a series detailing local anti-automobile groups’ push to block automobiles from park roads during the COVID 19 crisis.

First we reported on a Colorado City Council Meeting discussion about the proposed closure of parks, whether their intent is to close them permanently or just on specific days of the week.

Then we shared with our readers some responses from City public servants to the idea of park closures.

We filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for additional information, including requests for Colorado Springs Parks Director Karen Palus’s emails. In the first blog above, Palus expressed concerns about park closures. More information rolled in from this latest CORA:

  1. City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler’s email proposal requesting closure of Colorado Springs Parks roads to automobile traffic;
  2. Colorado Springs Mayor Suthers’s thoughts about closing park roads;
  3. The taxpayer cost burden for the ongoing Garden of the Gods Motorless Mornings;
  4. Motorless Morning participants behaving poorly and necessitating increased staff expenses;
  5. Councilwoman Gaebler’s suggestion to close Colorado Springs downtown streets.

This is why we do CORA requests. Public servants have some interesting conversations about their plans. We are happy to share those conversations.

  1. What was in City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler’s Garden of the Gods road closure proposal?

In an April 10th email to City Council members, Palus, and Colorado Springs Chief of Staff Jeff Greene, Councilwoman Gaebler shared her proposal to close roads in 3 city parks on weekends during the COVID-19 crisis —Garden of the Gods, Palmer Park, and Cheyenne Canyon. See that email here. It also included Palus’s response to the request. Gaebler worked hard to coordinate meetings between the Parks Department and anti-automobile activists. Citizens with different ideas were not invited.

  1. What does Mayor John Suthers say about park road closures?

We’re pleased to report that Mayor Suthers is currently against closing park roads. He said we should “stay the course” and expressed concerns about the stress closure would put on police, adjacent neighborhoods, and citizens who might not be able to access the parks. See that email here. Our hats are off to Mayor Suthers. His common sense approach is appreciated!

  1. What do Motorless Mornings at Garden of the Gods cost the taxpayers, and how much would it cost for additional weekend Garden of the Gods road closures during COVID-19?

A couple times a year, Garden of the Gods closes to automobiles for 6 hours on a Sunday morning. They call these events, “Motorless Mornings.” Cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, e-cyclists, and skaters are welcome in the park. What you may not know is that the 6-hour closure is costly and labor intensive. See the cost calculations and logistics involved with park road closure, in this email from Garden of the Gods Manager John Stark. Stark estimates the cost for police, park staff, and shuttle services at taxpayers $1131/hour on “Motorless Mornings.” To close the park every springtime weekend, as Councilwoman Gaebler and anti-automobile groups are suggesting, would cost taxpayers over $20,000 per weekend for police, park staff, and shuttle services. Ouch!

  1. “Motorless Morning” participants respect the automobile-free zones, or do they?

Early on, Garden of the Gods staff learned that the people enjoying the automobile-free park needed closer supervision. They instituted “Motorless Morning” park etiquette rules. This video appears to be one of the motivators for the new rules. During one Motorless Morning, skateboarders did tricks off the rocks, as large crowds gathered nearby to cheer the skateboarders on. Fast forward to 5:50 in the video link above to see the skateboarders skating down the red rocks. It’s a little disturbing to those who don’t want to see damage to the rock formations. Based on the video comments, blood was shed.

  1. Proposal to close downtown streets

On April 15th, Karen Palus sought Public Works Department advice about closing downtown streets to automobile traffic during the COVID-19 crisis. See the April 15th email exchange between Palus, Gaebler, and Travis Easton from Colorado Springs Public Works here. Easton asked Palus whether sidewalks and bike lanes are so overcrowded that social distancing wasn’t possible. He further warned of the trade-off for implementing road closures. Re-striping and blocking roads are labor intensive and would take staff away from filling potholes. Thanks to Mr. Easton for making these valuable points. Potholes are the priority! We wonder if this was a move to appease the anti-automobile groups after shooting down the park road closures.

We’ll keep following this issue. Our current crisis should not be used to advance the anti-automobile agenda. Our roads need to stay open to automobiles —it’s a great way to social distance. Stay safe, Colorado Springs. We’ll keep looking out for you.

2 thoughts on “The Cost of Closing Parks Roads to Cars

  1. Next time the city of colorado asks for funding for the parks, all motorists should vote NO !!! , let the joggers and bicyclist pay for it. Case closed.

  2. Keep restricting access to downtown. I already don’t patronize any business downtown. I avoid downtown like the plague. The only reason I have to go downtown is when I am forced to by the local judicial sysyem..

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