Lakepoint Center owner John Watson voiced his frustration over traffic congestion at Evergreen Lake during the Evergreen Park and Recreation District board meeting on Aug. 27.
"The lake traffic has taken away from our businesses," Watson said. "The Lake House is asking us to absorb overflow."
People who park vehicles at the Lakepoint Center while going to the Lake Park leave no spaces for tenants such as Willow Creek Restaurant, Watson said.
During concerts at the lake, Watson said, he has to hire a deputy sheriff at a cost of $450 to keep people from parking at Lakepoint.
Both Watson and Evergreen resident Sandra Slonim said the marketing that the park district has done for the Lake Park has increased traffic problems in the area.
Slonim also expressed concern with vehicles parked in the no-parking zone along Upper Bear Creek Road.
"I think it's a dangerous situation," she said. "I don't know the solution."
"Are most of the problems during special events? asked EPRD board member Kit Darrow.
"In the last two to three years, the weekends have gone berserk," Watson said. "Big Chili (Cook-off) and New Year's Eve are particular problems."
"It's progressed to the point where it's a daily challenge," said board member Mark Footer, who owns Intero Real Estate Services at Lakepoint.
"We agree on the parking situation," said Scott Robson, EPRD executive director. "What you're talking about is real, John."
"This board is going to begin talking about capping the events" at the Lake Park, Robson said. "We're trying to find a balance."
"We've started a park ranger program … we're going to work a little more closely with the sheriff," Robson added.
However, Robson took issue with the perception that EPRD marketing is responsible for increased use of the Lake Park.
"I think we need to take a step back from blaming EPRD marketing," Robson said. "I want to be a little bit careful about putting it on one element."
"This is a phenomenon we see all through Upper Bear Creek Canyon," he remarked.
Robson said much of the marketing of the Lake Park has been focused on midweek use by businesses.
EPRD board member Janet Heck Doyle said the issue with congestion at the Lake Park surfaced two months ago when people associated with the Evergreen Nature Center came to a board meeting and said there was a problem with overuse at the facility.
During the June 25 EPRD meeting, Evergreen residents told board members they were concerned with the negative impacts to wildlife and the environment from heavy park use.
"We know there is a problem, and are taking steps to address it," Heck Doyle said. "We want to have a work session addressed to use and overuse of the park."
Heck Doyle also advocated getting assistance from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
"I think there is an obligation of the sheriff's department to enforce regulations on the road," she said.
Members of the Downtown Evergreen Economic District have expressed concern with Watson's critical remarks about Lake Park use and management — particularly in regard to a column he wrote that appeared in the Aug. 28 edition of the Canyon Courier.
"I feel we all owe the EPRD a debt of gratitude for the varied and wonderful offerings to our community," said Gail Riley, owner of Highland Haven Creekside Inn. "Business-wise, we delight in being concierge to Evergreen through our inn. We are sure to send our thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the splendor of our anchor, Evergreen Lake. Along the way, they spend — a lot."
Dean Dalvit of EV Studio, another active DEED member, encouraged people to speak in support of the park district.
"The EPRD is one of the key stimulators of our local economy, and it is critical to the strength of our local economy that more voices be heard," Dalvit said.
Ron Issacson, director of Our Evergreen, also challenged Watson's statements.
"Mr. Watson’s editorial opinion does not reflect the outpour of enthusiasm I heard, saw and felt from the many residents I came in contact with at lakefront activities this summer," Issacson said. "The pulse of the residents and merchants I speak with during my daily visits throughout Evergreen supports and is extremely appreciative of the way EPRD handles events at the lake."
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