Snow and Avalanche Center 2007 Avalanche News

Can parking, plows and avalanches coexist?

Ketchum alters parking plan for Sage Road; concerns linger

Express Staff Writer

A discussion on parking regulations morphed into talk about revisiting Ketchum's comprehensive avalanche plan during a City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 2.

Managing parking on Sage Road, a northwest offshoot from Warm Springs Road, in the winter is presenting problems for the city.

"The demand for parking has gone up because of all the new houses that are going up," said Mayor Randy Hall.

But if vehicles park on both sides of the road, snowplows and fire engines can't get through.

The city decided to allow parking on one side of the road during winter, which will allow for emergency vehicle access as well as offer a few more parking spaces for the growing demand.

To further complicate the issue, Sage Road is in the city's "red zone," which means it is a hot spot for avalanche danger.

During a large storm on New Year's Day 2004, avalanches poured off the south-facing slopes in Warm Springs Canyon and covered parts of Sage Road.

But to what extent is it the city's responsibility to warn people about such dangers?

Some council members said there should be a limit to how proactive the city is in issuing warnings because homeowners knew of the dangers when they built there. At the same time, however, the city let them.

A compromise approach could be to install a sign on the Warm Springs bridge, warning drivers they are entering avalanche-prone areas. A more involved solution the council debated is to send out e-mail warnings to residents when danger is high.

Councilman Steve Shafran said the city is not set up to manage such a system. It could present liabilities if it failed to protect someone.

"Taking on that responsibility is too much work for us," he said.

He and Councilwoman Terry Tracy advocated instead for a more passive approach using signs.

"At some point people have to take on the responsibility of protecting themselves," Tracy said. "I'm into warning people ... but how far I can go to ensure their safety, I don't know."

Initially, "this wasn't a safety concern," she added. "This isn't how it all came to us. It was a parking concern."

Police Chief Cory Lyman said the parking issue may not be solved with better signs alone.

"Signs don't fix the problem," he said. "We need to address it in another way, through an avalanche plan."

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