IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. — If you plan on stopping in Idaho Springs this summer, get ready for some changes downtown.
Wednesday, the city started charging for parking, a major decision for a city of 1,800.
“We were always recognized as a pass-through: get your gas, get your coffee and get back on the highway,” says Mayor Mike Hillman. “Now, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of activity.”
Hillman says sales tax revenues have increased by more than 7 percent in each of the past 3 years, as more and more people explore the thriving downtown area.
However, the increased traffic has made finding parking a problem.
“I hear more and more people coming into town and getting frustrated that they’re driving around, and they can’t find a parking place,” says Hillman.
Earlier this year, the city council voted unanimously to start charging for downtown parking. The goal is to create more turnover, especially from drivers who park their cars and then leave town to go hiking or biking.
“They come in and they park their cars for six to 10 hours, which means those parking places aren’t turning over,” says Hillman.
Business owners say they have mixed reactions about the decision. There is some concern it could drive customers to other mountain towns where parking is still free.
“Change is scary no matter what you’re trying to change,” says Sadie Schultz, who owns the Spice and Tea Exchange. “Do we need to build a parking garage? I don’t know.”
She says she’s glad the city is trying something to clear up the parking issue.
“Parking is definitely our biggest problem,” she said. “My only negative review someone’s ever posted is they tried to find parking and they couldn’t find it, so they just left.”
The city has given permits to people who live adjacent to downtown, hoping to ensure people won’t venture up there to try to park for free.
But some locals are still upset about having to pay to park.
“It makes no sense,” says Charlie Adams. “People that live here, in this town, they should have a free pass.”
Adams says he’s worried about having to park blocks away in order to park for free.
“Why should we have to do that when we work right here?” he asks.
The pilot program will run until October, when the council will review data and decide whether to continue.
Parking will cost $1 per hour for the first few hours, with higher costs for longer stays.
You can read more on the parking program online.