No more playing 'the parking game'

Jeffco Open Space partners with Lot Spot to provide real-time parking information at five of its parks

Posted 9/30/19

Hunter Klein is looking forward to the day that he doesn't have to play what he calls “the parking game” when he visits Jefferson County Open Space parks. Klein of Golden enjoys climbing and …

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No more playing 'the parking game'

Jeffco Open Space partners with Lot Spot to provide real-time parking information at five of its parks

Posted

Hunter Klein is looking forward to the day that he doesn't have to play what he calls “the parking game” when he visits Jefferson County Open Space parks.

Klein of Golden enjoys climbing and caving, and, for Klein, usually those excursions include meeting up with a group of friends at a pre-planned spot.

However, the parking for those spots are often full by the time everyone in the group gets there, Klein said.

The app “will help us plan better,” Klein said.

The app that Klein refers to is newly offered by Jeffco Open Space through a partnership with Colorado Springs' Lot Spot. What the Lot Spot app does is provide real-time information to Jeffco Open Space park visitors. The app is available for free for both Android and Apple.

“We understand that we may be parking challenged at a few of our trailheads,” said Mary Ann Bonnell, manager of visitor services for Jeffco Open Space, during her presentation to the Jefferson County Commissioners during a staff briefings meeting on Sept. 24. “We can't make more parking spaces in an immediate way, but what we can do is (help) our visitors make better choices about when they come to our parks. And this is going to help us do that.”

When using the app, park visitors can immediately find out how many parking spots are available at that given time of day. In addition, it allows users to search for other nearby parks, should the parking lot at the park they were planning on visiting happens to be full, said Matt Robbins, community connections manager for Jeffco Open Space.

“What we're really trying to do is educate (and) that begins before they even get here,” Robbins said. “We don't want people parking illegally or dangerously. We prefer they plan ahead, and we think this tool will help with that.”

Currently in beta testing, the app is available for seven parking lots at five Open Space parks — Mount Galbraith, White Ranch, Mount Falcon, Lair o' the Bear and Alderfer/Three Sisters.

However, in time, Open Space plans on expanding the technology to its other parks.

“We'll continue to listen to feedback,” Robbins said, “and make sure it's working properly.”

The equipment that sends the information is a solar-powered camera mounted on a pole that counts the number of vehicles that enter and leave the park's lot.

In addition to providing real-time information on the availability of parking spaces, the app also allows park visitors to report a variety of errors, Robbins said. For example, if a person arrives to an Open Space park, and the app had inaccurately counted the number of spaces available, a person can report the wrong information and the app will autocorrect. There are also options to report illegal parking, a vehicle break-in and even heavy traffic or an accident on the commute to the park, Robbins said.

On the staff side, the app will help Open Space with gathering long-term analytics, Bonnell said.

“It helps us understand, do we need a bigger lot,” she said, “or do we need to just encourage people to spread out their visiting hours. If this lot stays busy all the time, it may mean we need more spaces overall.”

The app can also help staff with enforcement in the parks, Robbins said. Most of the parks open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset. So, for example, perhaps the camera detects a car parked in the lot in the middle of the night, Robbins said. The app would help staff become aware that there is vehicle in the lot afterhours, and staff could respond appropriately, such as sending a ranger out to investigate.

And it doesn't necessarily always mean the car is parked there because of illegal activity, Robbins added. It could be an emergency and the person found themselves in an area that had no cell service to make a 911 call.

“This is great information — not just for our visitors but also for us,” Bonnell said. “Nobody else is doing this in their parks. We're the first ones to try it. (And) we're very excited about this innovation and trying this technology out.”

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