Illegal parkers will soon face the boot |

Illegal parkers will soon face the boot

Brent Gardner-Smith

There are powder hounds at Aspen Highlands, and there are also parking weasels.

And snow sliders will need to be as cunning as the furry little carnivores to figure out where they can and cannot park during the five weekends left in the Highlands’ ski season.

A growing number of skiers are parking outside the Highland’s 450-space garage either because it is full or because they don’t want to pay the required $5 to park.

With almost every parking option near the ski area controlled by a different entity with varying rules and levels of enforcement, skiers who choose to drive face a confusing array of seemingly illegal choices.

And the stakes in the game go up today when managers of Aspen Highlands and the Five Trees Metro Districts begin booting and towing some cars.

“We have people parking in stupid places,” said Gary Beach, the manager of the recently formed metro districts, which have authority over the streets in the new neighborhoods around Highlands. “Because we don’t have city enforcement, we are in a default position of having to boot or tow to get the point across.”

In Highlands Village, if you park too long in an emergency access lane, a five-minute unloading zone, or another inappropriate place, your car will be booted. The second time your car is booted, you’ll have to pay $100 to set it free.

For the past three weeks, the metro districts have been leaving warnings on the cars of more aggressive parkers.

“There are people who flat out won’t change,” said Beach. “The intent is to get them to follow the rules.”

Many skiers and construction workers at Highlands Village are parking on the private roads in the village. And the district is letting most slide for now, but not those in more flagrant locations.

There is a range of other illegal alternatives along Maroon Creek Road for cheap and/or desperate drivers. And enforcement so far is purposely lax.

The parking lot at Iselin Park, controlled by the city of Aspen, has been designated as a two-hour parking area, but the city is not enforcing the regulation.

“We don’t want to push all the cars out onto Maroon Creek Road,” said Tim Ware, city parking director.

Maroon Creek Road is a county road, and it’s illegal to park on the side of any county road. But the county won’t tow a car unless it’s in the way of emergency vehicles or snowplows.

“The sheriff’s office does not have someone dedicated to parking enforcement,” said Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s director of public works.

Of course, skiers can park inside the Highlands skier parking garage – if there is room. And they can park for free if they arrive with three or more people.

Inside the Highlands garage is also a separate 230-space section for those staying at the Ritz, living in affordable housing, or working at the retail shops or restaurants. That special section is located behind a large, yellow gate.

The gate has been replaced three times this season. “People have been busting the gates,” said Beach.

One potential relief valve on weekends is the large parking lot at the Aspen School District. There is little weekend activity at the complex through March, so free parking is available just across the street from Iselin Park.

“I don’t see any problem with people using the parking lots during the weekends,” said Tom Farrell, Aspen School District Superintendent “We certainly won’t tow or ticket.”

Looking down the road, officials believe the parking nightmare along the Maroon Creek corridor is going to get much worse. An intergovernmental agreement is being crafted between the city, the county, the school district, and the metro districts to deal with the situation.

For example, on some future Saturday there could be a Nordic ski club race, a basketball game at the high school, a play at the School District Theatre, a hockey game and a swim meet at the new Iselin complex, and a powder day at Highlands.

“Suddenly you have tremendous pressure on parking and no apparent solution,” said Beach.

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Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2001

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