The inaugural Dew Downtown Flagstaff event is wrapping up, with San Francisco Street expected to reopen by tomorrow morning. While official attendance estimates have not been released, many locals and tourists turned out to watch the weekend’s snowboarding events.
Obstacles, including a trashcan, benches and even a Toyota FJ Cruiser were part of the course, created on top of several feet of snow.
The following story was written by Kevin Bertram, of Flagstaff Business News and appeared in the February issue.
Downtown Flagstaff businesses located on North San Francisco Street remain divided over February’s Dew Downtown Flagstaff Urban Snowboard and Ski Festival (FUSS), scheduled to close the street between Birch and Dale to vehicle traffic. While some property owners complain that closing the traffic artery would lead to a loss in revenue during the Feb. 9-13 weekend, city government and supporting businesses see a tremendous opportunity.
Both city government and local sports shops are on board with the event moving forward. The Flagstaff City Council approved the closure and the event after a presentation by City Manager Kevin Burke and by taking audience comments into consideration.
“This is a project that myself and Mark Lamberson from Mountain Sports have been working together on to create the idea of an urban ski and snowboarding event,” Burke said.
Lamberson, whose business is located on San Francisco Street, said in an interview that the festival is a unique opportunity for the city to try something new in the heart of downtown.
“I’m very excited for it,” Lamberson said. “It’s an opportunity for us to have a new idea downtown. There are over 200 events in downtown Flagstaff, with Heritage Square and Wheeler Park. This is unique because it’s going to be closing two short blocks, bringing in snow and building features that are very unique.”
Citing new measures being taken by the city to accommodate the event, Lamberson said he does not foresee a major parking crisis downtown during the festival weekend.
“With all those events I mentioned [being] downtown, there’s never been a parking plan,” Lamberson said. “This is the first time there’s been a permanent event downtown with an off-street parking plan. Several hundred off-street parking spaces will be designated for overflow parking, with parking ambassadors and maps. We’re excited to give it a try.”
Steve Chatinsky, the owner of retailer Peace Surplus at the corner of Leroux Street and Rt. 66, said he counts himself among the supporters of the event. Though his business is not located on San Francisco Street, Chatinsky said he frequently has to deal with closures of Leroux, and that affected businesses can find ways to still attract customers.
“I hope for the one or two days, [customers] will walk to their business and think about giving them some extra business,” Chatinsky said. “When downtown is closed to traffic on Leroux, people can’t turn into my building because the left turn lane is closed off. I don’t sit down and complain about it. It’s called life. It’s for the better of Flagstaff. It’s not all about me.”
Chatinsky says his fellow downtown business owners need to think about what is best for the greater good of the community when thinking about the impact of the weekend.
“I don’t look at every event and go, ‘ok, am I going to make money off of this? Is it good for me?’ This one, we happen to be involved in – we took a booth,” Chatinsky said. “I love things that young kids are involved in. Maybe their parents will come in and buy something out of my store, or they won’t buy from my store. But, it’s a new, upcoming thing that I’d like to get involved in. That’s all.”
One downtown business owner opposed is Gordon Watkins, a resident of the city for nine years and owner of the Inn at 410, a bed and breakfast on North Leroux Street. He says residents on his street rejected proposals to hold events similar to FUSS in the past, and that the effects on his business will be just as harmful now that the event is on North San Francisco Street.
“Our neighborhood was asked last year if we wanted to hold this event on North Leroux Street, and we said absolutely not,” Watkins said. “Moving it one street over makes no difference to us. It’s a major generator of traffic, noise, litter, people – that crush on this neighborhood is just not what we want to see.”
Watkins says the opposition to the festival is in no way about winter sports, but rather, concerns the potential for the traffic issues that might arise when a major, neighboring street is blocked.
According to Watkins, there are many business owners on North San Francisco who feel the lack of access will turn away regular customers.
“I took up a petition and got over 100 signatures from restaurants like Brix, Criollo, Mountain Oasis and Karma – from not only the owners, but the employees as well – who are very concerned on this important holiday weekend that people will be able to have access to their businesses and we won’t be adversely impacted by the crush of traffic that ultimately will happen,” Watkins said.
At a recent City Council meeting, there was one business owner in attendance who addressed the council. Dave McCormick, a resident of Flagstaff since 1964, owns two properties downtown on North San Francisco Street. He said his employees will be detrimentally affected by the blocking of traffic to his business.
“To be cut off from San Francisco Street so you can’t have access – this is major,” McCormick said. “I’d like to see a show of hands from the Council members here today: who would like to have this in front of their house for five days?”
Watkins says the ongoing debate over the festival has divided the downtown business community at a time when it needs to come together.
Watkins said, “It’s caused a lot of divisiveness in this neighborhood and this community that is not necessary.” FBN