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  • Andy Hitch

Estes Park Colorado Loop or Open Street Mall

A few years back, the town of Estes Park approved "The Loop". See the map below. The loop would turn two way traffic on the main shopping drag of Elkhorn Ave into a one way. It would also turn Riverside into a one way and basically screw businesses on Moraine Ave.

You see, people drive through the middle of downtown (Elkhorn) in order to get to Rocky Mountain National Park. Before the loop, they had the option to turn left on Moraine Ave to hit the south entrance to the park, or stay straight and hit the north entrance to the park. The loop will block south entrance park goers from driving by Moraine Ave businesses, among other problems.

Residents of Estes Park are very divided on the loop. Personally, I think it's a poor plan, not well thought out at all. Not to mention it's extremely inconsiderate of some businesses who have been here for decades. I have a much better idea and will detail that later.

During the COVID outbreak and shutdown, business owners in Estes Park were asked by the town for ideas on how to operate for the summer of 2020. I voiced my opinion, and without hearing back from anyone, it looks like it's going to happen.

The summer of 2020 will bring about a very new way of doing things. Elkhorn Ave from Riverside to Moraine will be shut down to all traffic and become an open street mall of sorts. Some cool and fun things are planned for it as well.

In my opinion, this should have been the plan all along. The traffic on Elkhorn has always been a major problem.

Shutting down traffic on Elkhorn for 2020 is only a pilot program, whatever that means? The loop is still in the works. I think they need to scrap it.

Here's my plan in detail: Elkhorn should stay an open street mall from Riverside, all the way to the Christmas shop just before the Big Horn Restaurant. The open street concept should include part of Moraine Ave up to Rockwell St. Fun things should always be going on in that section as to drive people up that way. It's only a couple hundred feet.

Traffic should then be able to flow in both directions on Wonderview Ave, Riverside Dr, Rockwell St, West Dr, the rest of Moraine Ave, and all other streets except for Elkhorn.

The town should also purchase more parking space on Moraine Ave to draw people in from that direction so they can pay attention to those businesses. They should also create North park entrance drive from Virginia, connecting to Boyd Ln. and then into Spruce Dr so businesses on the west end of town are included. This would provide 3 routes toward the park instead of two.

If the town did it right, they could lease carts to vendors, have games, events, food, and live music in the middle of town. It would be a really cool experience for all visitors and I believe it would be a major draw to downtown shopping.

It's all a pipe dream though. You know government, once they have decided on something, they stick it out. Nobody wants to admit it could have been done better. I am still hoping they'll see the positive affects of the 2020 pilot program, but I seriously doubt it. They are actively looking to fund and complete loop as I write this.

By the way, none of this affects Backbone Adventures. We're located over by the lake. I'm not saying this plan is the best, I'm sure improvements could be made on it. However, if it was done right and well thought out. It would be good for visitors and every business in Estes Park.

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