20-year draft plan gets mixed reviews from residents
By Mark Esper
A plan to spruce up downtown and make it more pedestrian-friendly was greeted with mixed reviews Tuesday night, Nov. 17, with some suggesting a more subtle approach to keep Silverton distinct from other mountain towns.
RPI Consulting of Durango, which is drafting a new master plan for Silverton and San Juan County, hosted an open house at Town Hall along with DHM Design of Durango, which drew up the downtown design ideas.
The plan involves widening sidewalks, putting in new, dark-skies compliant street lights, adding signage to help visitors find their way around, and kiosks at the passenger-embarking area at 12th and Blair streets.
Ann Christensen of DHM Design said there is an obvious need for wider sidewalks on Greene Street during “train time.” The draft plan she presented would expand them from the current 8-foot width to 13 feet. She said that would still leave plenty of room for angle parking.
The proposal also envisions “bulb-outs” at four intersections that would give pedestrians more space. The bulb-outs are proposed for 12th and Greene, 12th and Blair, 14th and Greene and 14th and Blair.
The bulb-outs could include planters and pedestrian-level lights that could be removed for the winter.
Andrew Kotz, of RPI Consulting, said the idea was to come up with some improvements that are achievable over the next 20 years and that are not “wildly expensive.”
He suggested the sidewalk widening would likely be the most expensive element of the plan.
He said the plans, including old-fashioned street lights, would amount to “fairly subtle improvements that don’t really change the character of the town.”
Many aspects of the downtown plan were greeted with enthusiasm, but some thought a less heavy-handed approach was in order.
Silverton resident Steve Fearn said the plan “would change the entire character of the town.
“Part of our draw is the sense of a real mining town — one of the few left in the state,” Fearn said. He said Silverton’s distinct character separates it from other mountain towns. “We don’t want to lose that.”
Silverton resident Everett Lyons said he too was concerned that the streetscape plan presented Tuesday “looks a lot like Grand Junction.”
He worried it would make Silverton “look like every other mountain town.”
Lyons said he was against the planters and some other features.
Christensen noted the purpose of Tuesday’s session was to get input on the plans. She said that the Silverton streetscape features could be toned down and made less “sweet” in an effort to keep the Silverton in Silverton.
Silverton resident Greg Swanson said he too thought some of the features were out of place for Silverton. He said he didn’t want changes that would have visitors in future years making comments such as “Oh yes, they must have redone their downtown” in the early 21st century.
Silverton resident Melody Skinner said she thought the bulb-outs would be helpful to pedestrians at the busy intersections.
Larry Raab, town public works foreman, raised the obvious issue of snow removal. He said bulb-outs would have to be on-grade with the street. He also questioned whether the sidewalk on Greene Street could be widened as much as proposed.
“What you have works great for the tourist season,” Raab said, but with the huge berm of snow that inevitably sprouts in the center of Greene Street after storms, the sidewalks can be widened only so much.
Raab also said that development of a more respectable “potty park” on Blair Street should be part of the master plan for downtown.