Fourth of July parade may return to Lincoln, but probably not this year

In split vote, Steamboat Springs City Council refrains from committing to Yampa Street long-term

<em id="emphasis-20360db2063a0b700100d665321cc303">Routt County Fair Royalty Queen Leah Allen makes her way along Yampa Street during the 2021 Steamboat Springs Fourth of July Parade. Last year’s parade was moved to Yampa because of a road closure on Interstate 70.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday, May 3, to deny an ordinance that would permanently move the Fourth of July parade from Lincoln Avenue to Yampa Street, though the city is currently planning to use that route for the parade this year.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Department of Transportation recommended the city refrain from closing U.S. Highway 40 for special events in the summer.

All seven city council members agreed CDOT’s safety concerns were valid, but none of them felt comfortable committing to moving the parade permanently.

A motion was brought forth to direct staff to move the parade to Yampa Street this year, as per CDOT’s recommendation. That motion passed 4-3.

During public comments, five people spoke out against the ordinance including Kara Stoller, CEO of the Steamboat Chamber. No members of the public spoke in favor of it.

Among the reasons to keep the parade on Lincoln was the effect it had on local businesses. Skull Creek Greek and F.M. Light and Sons were both represented by their respective owners, who both said their businesses suffered last year with the parade moving to Yampa Street.

Members of the public also brought up the history of the Fourth of July parade, pointing out that it has taken place on Lincoln for over a century and that Lincoln Avenue’s Western aesthetic is a draw for the town.

Also brought up was how few people can fit along Yampa Street as compared to Lincoln, especially when looking at sidewalk space.

“Thanks to my great great grandfather F.M. Light, we have the sidewalks nice and wide on Lincoln Avenue,” said Lindsay Dillenbeck, owner of F.M. Light and Sons.

The Fourth of July parade is managed by the Steamboat Chamber, which last summer had to scramble at the last minute to move the parade to Yampa within a day’s notice.

“I think Kara did a great job last year,” said Dillenbeck. “She had that handled.”

Last year, the Fourth of July parade was moved to Yampa Street at the last second because mudslides in Glenwood Canyon had closed Interstate 70. The closing of I-70 diverted highway traffic through the center of Steamboat Springs, so closing Lincoln for the parade would have worsened traffic along the already overloaded U.S. 40.

CDOT provided reasons Steamboat should refrain from closing Lincoln for the parade this year.

Central to CDOT’s argument are the safety risks associated with ever-increasing traffic on U.S. 40 combined with an abundance of foot traffic along the highway in summer.

Another factor city council discussed was that I-70 could close again due to several reasons including traffic accidents, mudslides and mudslide precautions. An abundance of semi trucks moving through town would make directing traffic on Lincoln more difficult, especially if traffic is being rerouted through town because of closures elsewhere.

City staff brought forward other reasons to permanently move the parade to Yampa Street, too. According to staff recommendations, closing Lincoln Avenue requires staff to direct traffic from Lincoln to Oak Street, whereas having the parade on Yampa Street only requires street crews to close off that section of road.

Having the parade on Lincoln also requires ambulances on each end of the street, while a single ambulance can access the entire parade on Yampa. Fewer police officers are needed for a parade on Yampa as well.

Alan Clubb, who represented CDOT’s recommendations to city council, acknowledged the state transportation agency’s position on Steamboat’s Fourth of July parade would not win CDOT a popularity contest.

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to correct the spelling of Lindsay Dillenbeck’s name.

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