Park City puts velvet rope around Old Town streets | ParkRecord.com

Park City puts velvet rope around Old Town streets

Park City has posted signs in Old Town prohibiting thru traffic and noting there is resident-only parking in the neighborhood. One of the signs, shown, is at the intersection of Park Avenue and 12th Street. Officials want to reduce traffic on neighborhood streets during the Sundance Film Festival.

Park City has effectively forbidden non-local traffic on neighborhood streets in Old Town during the Sundance Film Festival in addition to the longtime parking restrictions there, putting up a velvet rope that Parkites are only allowed through.

The measures are the latest taken by City Hall in an effort to ensure Old Town is not overrun during the festival. There have long been complaints about the festival's impacts on the neighborhood, but the concerns have seemed more pronounced in recent years amid the growth of Sundance.

The neighborhood surrounds festival venues like the Park City Library and the Egyptian Theatre as well as Main Street. The traffic crush during Sundance is well known to festival-goers and people who live in Old Town as drivers back up as they move up or down Main Street or circle the core for a parking spot. Sundance-goers have for years also ignored the resident-only restrictions in Old Town.

City Hall has long attempted to protect the neighborhood during the festival and took further steps this year. One important measure was posting temporary signs with a more vigorous message than in the past. The signs note that parking is for people who hold resident-only permits, but they also prohibit thru traffic and indicate there is a $145 fine and towing enforced.

The signs and stepped-up enforcement this year are in response to the wider concerns in the neighborhood about festival impacts. The discussions started shortly after the close of the festival in 2017 and extended through the planning of the 2018 edition.

"Make sure, best we can, people are not cutting through residential neighborhoods," said Jenny Diersen, who is City Hall's special events and economic development program manager.

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She said officials in November and December met with the taxi and shuttle industry in an effort to reduce traffic on residential streets in Old Town. The ride-sharing firms Lyft and Uber were also involved in the efforts to cut traffic, she said. Park City hired a company that will post staffers to enforce the restriction at key locations during peak afternoon and evening times.

"I think it's important because we really are trying to mitigate the impacts to events," Diersen said, adding that Park City's parking services and the Park City Police Department will also enforce the restrictions.

Signs were also posted elsewhere in Park City, including in Prospector close to Sundance venues, but the ones in Old Town are seen as being more critical.

The discussions about the neighborhood impacts of Sundance stretched over the months following the festival in 2017 and involved Park City's elected leaders, Old Town dwellers and a City Hall panel involved in issues related to special events.

The discussions about Sundance have been part of a broader look at the impacts of Park City's overall calendar of special events, including sports tournaments and races as well as arts and cultural gatherings. Concern built over time that the special events detracted from Park City's small-town atmosphere with crowds and traffic. Others, though, disagreed, saying the special events are critical to a resort-based economy.

Mellie Owen, a Norfolk Avenue resident who once served on City Hall's special event panel, said she hopes the signs and the $145 fine deter drivers, but she said she would have preferred officials also put out traffic cones to discourage speeding.

"I think it's going to be trial and error because we haven't had this before," Owen said, commending the City Hall efforts.

She said safety remains a concern in Old Town, describing that there are children in the neighborhood. A ride-sharing firm vehicle nearly hit her on the first Friday night of Sundance in 2017, Owen said, describing neighborhood streets in Old Town as the quickest routes during Sundance. She said she hopes there are fewer vehicles on neighborhood streets during the festival with "an 'L' or a 'U' on the dashboard," referring to the stickers signifying Lyft or Uber drivers.

"When people are flying down, we know it is not one of our neighbors," Owen said.