MEEKER I Participants from all around came to the Colorado Downtown Streets Workshop hosted by the Meeker Chamber of Commerce at Mountain Valley Bank April 19—a conference co-produced by the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Planners, town managers, and staff from Rifle, Fraser, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Collbran, Basalt, Steamboat Springs, Parachute and Palisade as well as the Town of Meeker, Rio Blanco County, the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District and private parties gathered to learn and share.
Jillian Sutherland with Community Builders of Glenwood Springs—the primary consultants on this three-department effort—explained their purpose was to empower communities to react effectively to change. She reminded participants that transportation and transportation corridors are the “bones” of community structure, the “skeleton” of our lives; that jobs follow people (this may seem counter-intuitive); that people prefer to walk around their communities; that access to recreation is important; and not to forget the power of partnerships.
Jim Charlier, Charlier Associates, the secondary consultants on this effort which is an offshoot of the Colorado Main Street Program, spoke to what towns can do when the main street through town is a state highway. What about when your Main Street is not the state highway through town? Sound familiar, Meeker? Charlier led the collective group through the “Colorado Downtown Streets Manual—A Tool for Communities, Planners and Engineers”—which was published last fall.
Chapters include Why Streets Matter, What is a Street, How to Create Great Streets, and Implementation. The group experimented through an interactive session of evaluating photo examples from all around Colorado.
With regard to funding good projects to enhance streets and communities, folks were encouraged to keep an eye out for the $3 trillion President Donald J. Trump says he wants to see spent for community infrastructure. Other funding reality rules presented included: money comes to plans way faster than plans come to money; for success, towns need to be diverse in their funding sources and search for funds; and state and federal funds are increasingly hard to come by these days.
To date, it was pointed out, Colorado has been 64 percent dependent on federal dollars for these types of projects versus 53 percent on the national average. Towns should make a concerted effort to invest in their futures, not just spend—develop and follow a disciplined, multi-year plan.