Aspen’s ‘whackamole’ parking problem moves to next neighborhood

Cars parked near the Hunter Creek Apartments in Aspen covered from past snowfalls. The city is trying new measures to discourage people from long-term storage of vehicles.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The city is making moves on a popular east-side street to eliminate what has become a storage area for dirt bikes, trailers and vehicles.

Starting this week, 72-hour parking along Lone Pine Road is being changed to a 24-hour zone.

Signs have been erected to reflect the new restrictions, which will be enforced beginning next week with warning tickets, said Mitch Osur, the city’s parking director.

Beginning on Dec. 23, full enforcement of $50 tickets and towing will ensue.

The change is mostly driven by the creation of a paid parking zone a few blocks over in the neighborhood of Park and Midland avenues this past spring.

The E Zone, as it’s known, is the sixth paid parking area in the city. It was established to free up spaces in the heavily populated neighborhood. Now, people have to pay $8 a day to park there if they don’t have a residential permit.

Osur said residents in the area have generally deemed the change a success.

“We did prove that we can change behavior,” he said.

And whenever there is a change in parking policy, it typically creates a domino effect — a phenomena that Osur calls “Whack-A-Mole” in which the problem pops up elsewhere.

That is now Lone Pine Road.

“The 24-hour will force turnover and no storage,” Osur said Wednesday. “If it doesn’t work it would go to paid parking. … This is an intermediate stage.”

But Osur added that he doesn’t see the 24-hour rule not working because he plans to have the parking department diligently enforce the area.

“I’m really confident that this is going to work,” he said.

Osur will go before Aspen City Council in February to report on how the experiment worked, and will make recommendations going forward.

He got a lot of heat from residents in the complexes along Lone Pine Road last fall when the city took away the 24-hour parking and restricted it to four hours as a 90-day test.

It was an attempt to combat the congestion on the road, which had become a place where commuters and skiers park their cars and head into town.

But the four-hour restrictions didn’t leave enough room for residents in the Lone Pine, Common Ground, Hunter Longhouse and Hunter Creek complexes to park in the 33 spots on the street.

So last fall it became a 72-hour zone, and a year later congestion problems exist for another reason.

Osur said he doesn’t have a problem at this point with commuters or skiers parking there, as long as they are gone by the late afternoon to free up spaces for residents.