Aspen hires consultants for $95k to help people find their way | AspenTimes.com

Aspen hires consultants for $95k to help people find their way

People in Aspen are apparently lost, and the city government is looking at ways to help them get to where they're going.

The city of Aspen has hired two consultants to develop a "wayfinding system." The city contracted with Boulder-based rsm design and Aspen-based Design Workshop for $95,000 this past spring.

They are in the midst of presenting conceptual plans to the city's advisory boards. The plans center around a system of signs throughout town that are designed to help navigate people to parks, trails and other points of interest.

City planners are wanting feedback from the citizen boards on the initial plan before taking a formalized one to Aspen City Council.

"Right now, we are very conceptual," said Jordan Gray-DeKraai, a city project manager.

This week, the city's Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning and Zoning commission reviewed plans with the design team in two public meetings.

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Gray-DeKraai and Ben Anderson, a planner in the city's Community Development Department, characterized P&Z's feedback on Tuesday as "constructive" and a mix of "support and skepticism."

One skeptic is P&Z Commissioner Ryan Walterscheid, who said he thought there was a majority on the board who felt that the plan is too over the top.

"The general consensus is, 'Why is this necessary?'" he said. "'Why it's going to this extent?' was the question."

The perceived need for a wayfinding system was born out of the city's bicycle and pedestrian master plan from a couple of years ago.

That plan, based on public feedback, identified a few issues, such as residents and visitors having difficulty locating and traveling safely and efficiently to open space and amenities.

Visitors also are unaware of important destinations that define the Aspen experience, or the location of those amenities, according to a memo from Anderson to the P&Z.

The memo noted that the city's existing system of directional, informational and trailhead signage lacks cohesion and has inconsistent information.

The planners are working on a visual design for how a system may look.

They are scheduled to go before the city's commercial core and lodging commission and the open space trails board next month.

Gray-DeKraai said the team also plans to work with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to get more feedback, along with public outreach that's yet to be determined.

The team plans to go to City Council in October for review.

Gray-DeKraai said some of the key destinations the team is looking at to guide people to are the Aspen Recreation Center, the hospital, Rio Grande Park and the trail, the John Denver Sanctuary, Wagner Park, Smuggler and trailheads including Hunter Creek and the Ute. Other locations are being discussed.

Walterscheid his fellow board members told the consulting team and city planners that if new signage is necessary or needs to be updated, it should be done in minimalist way.

"People come here for a bit of adventure," Walterscheid said, "and I don't think we have to map out every single place for them."

csackariason@aspentimes.com