Starting Friday, June 8, visitors to Manitou Springs will have some help finding parking spaces when SP+, the city’s parking contractor, stations coordinators at all of the city’s lots.

The SP+ parking coordinators will be stationed in tents and attired — in typical Manitou style — in colorful, tie-dyed t-shirts. They will be on duty at the city’s Hiawatha Gardens, Cañon and Barr Trail lots and the Metropolitan Parking District’s Wichita and Smischny lots 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer, said Bob Kamper, SP+ vice president, Municipal Services Division.

The parking coordinators will monitor the capacity of each lot and communicate with each other via radio to direct visitor to lot where spaces are available.

The coordinators also will send information about available parking to a manager who will float among the lots and update a variable message board at the Ruxton Avenue roundabout.

“We might add a second message board later after we see how this one works,” Kamper said.

The coordinators also will assist visitors in getting to their destinations and provide information about everything from how to use the payment kiosks to what’s going on in town.

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They’ll also collect information about lot usage. According to a joint release from the city and SP+, the Metro District will have its own seasonal attendants and will participate in the data collection project. The result will give a clearer picture about parking lot usage in Manitou.

The city is paying for the program, which is an effort to lessen visitor frustration during the busiest times of the summer, reduce the time they spend circling around town looking for a space and ease traffic congestion.

“There was talk of dynamic, permanent signage, which is a very expensive endeavor,” Kamper said. “This is a more friendly, ambassadorial way to gather data and learn how to mitigate issues and what we need to do to move forward. It’s a good, soft way to do it and to help people who come visit have a more enjoyable time.”

Manitou Springs’ Transportation and Parking Board spent several months evaluating parking identification technology that would keep track of lot usage and direct visitors to available spaces.

Because of the high cost to implement an automated system and the seasonal nature of high demand for public parking, SP+ proposed hiring people to patrol each lot, which can be accomplished at a much lower cost.

Higher tech may be in the city’s future, but for now, Manitou’s City Council unanimously backed the idea of a more personal touch.

“Pedestrian flow affects traffic as well,” Kamper said. “We have looked at putting some ambassadors elsewhere in the city.”

SP+ estimates three ambassadors would be needed to help manage pedestrian traffic and may be adding them later this summer.

The parking contractor also has been working on a new website to serve the city’s parking and transportation needs.

ParkManitou.com will be launched Friday along with the coordinator program and will convey information about parking availability.

“It has been developed in conjunction with the city and stakeholders and is still a work in progress,” Kamper said. “We’re still getting feedback.” 

The site will be more robust in the future as it is enhanced and refined. Information will be added, particularly regarding alternative modes of transportation such as biking and walking.

The SP+ parking coordinators will be at the lots starting at 10 a.m. Friday and will have free coffee and doughnuts for visitors that morning.

Kamper, who is based in the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area, said he would be visiting Manitou for the weekend to observe the launch of the new program — and hopes the team has a tie-dyed t-shirt for him, too.