John Scarffe, Gilpin County. Representatives of a firm hired to lead a transportation study in Gilpin and Clear Creek counties met with interested residents and County officials to explore the area’s transportation needs at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 12, at the Gilpin County Public Library. Gail Watson, chair of the Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners, said the meeting resulted from a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) planning grant in conjunction with Clear Creek County.
Others in attendance included Matthew Helfant, senior transportation planner with the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), JoAnn Sorensen, with Clear Creek County, Gilpin County Senior Services Coordinator, Mary Ellen Makosky, Gilpin Library Director, Michael Carlson, Gilpin County Community Development Director, Stephen Strohminger and Case Manager, Nora Shumate with Gilpin County Human Services.
The Clear Creek and Gilpin County Transit Assessment and Planning Study will document the area’s transportation gaps and identify specific human services and public transportation needs to improve community access to employment, healthcare, education, services, shopping and recreational opportunities, according to the event invitation. “The study will include a strategic approach to fulfilling those needs and gaps to ensure overall community support of the plan’s recommendations and promote implementation of recommendations over time.
This type of planning is necessary to position the counties for potential expansion of services through grants from the State and Federal Government. Watson said that previously Gilpin County had the Gilpin Connector, but that was eliminated after the recession, and the County couldn’t allocate funding.
Then they started Gilpin Connect, a scheduled service only for health care. After receiving the planning grant, they hired Felsburg, Holt & Ullevig (FHU).
Transportation Planner Emma Belmont and Cady Dawson represented FHU at the meeting and prepared questions to ask the group. Belmont asked, “What are the most frequent transportation challenges you or your clients experience?
Shumate said Gilpin County faces tremendous challenges to get people to human services and food. They have no way to get food. For medical appointments they have to go to Denver or the Lakewood area.
A Rollinsville resident has mulitple doctor’s appointments. Her daughter has to get to Nederland to go to school in Boulder.
They used to have the Connector and could hop on and go to the Community Center or transfer on the RTD.
Boulder County has a free bus pass, a group member said. In Gilpin County they have to pay $5 per day and an annual pass is $2,000. If the Connector did come back it would help, even if you charge a minimal amount. It would help us become more self-sufficient.
Living in the mountains is a difficult thing for young people. They don’t have anywhere to go or anything to do. It opens the door for getting into trouble.
Carlson said residents need access to technology – internet, notary, printing services, with internet up here being so spotty.
“This is one place people can depend on. They drive here. People don’t use the bike racks. We’re not near the school.”
A senior group member pointed out that seniors don’t want to drive after dark, so they miss out on activities. “I know quite a few seniors who have transportation but can’t drive. Unless I can get transportation, I don’t do anything.”
Watson said she came back from the hospital in a very expensive cab ride and a lot people can’t afford that. She couldn’t either if she had to do it all the time.
Senior Services Coordinator Mary Ellen Makosky, who manages scheduling for the Connect, said, “we have been attempting to schedule people together – that’s real challenging with clients going to Golden, Arvada or Aurora, and they are all on the same day at about the same time. They could be there for five or six hours.”
That’s not conducive if you are in pain, Makosky said. They are trying to get people to go the same day and same time, and it’s not worked out very well for people who are waiting. Gilpin Connect is an advance-scheduled ride service for residents who need transportation to health care services.
Belmont asked if people know what services are available. Group members said they know about services like the food pantry in Nederland but can’t get there.
Shumate said she lets clients know their options. She especially tries to make sure they have Mary Ellen’s option. Human Services tries to make them very aware of the services, but Gilpin County is very limited.
“We have no grocery store. It’s a little desert here with nothing.”
Makosky said one of the biggest challenges is getting the word out. A lot of people don’t read the paper because it only comes out once a week. “We need to let people know, and how do we do that?”
“We’d like to try to get Connect to go to a grocery store a couple of times on a scheduled time,” Makosky said. Shumate said if they don’t qualify, or can’t drive for whatever reason, they don’t know and have no transportation.
Belmont asked how people get around. Shumate said she had a new couple in the county, and one of them had hip surgery a week prior to their Human Services appointment. They walked for four hours to get to the appointment with them.
“This is the kind of stuff that happens regularly. We gave them a ride home and let them know about options,” Shumate said.
Makosky said that the third Tuesday of each month the Food Bank of the Rockies will go to Gold Mountain Village. People can go there and pick up food. Jury duty is a problem. They have to be there at 8 a.m.
Sometimes they have been able to help people, but sometimes they can’t. Connect does have a large lift, but they don’t do transfers from one seat to another seat.
JoAnn Sorensen said they have similar issues in Clear Creek. There must be some way to get together. They have never been able to get RTD interested.
Watson said that RTD won’t consider coming up Highway 6 because of the casinos bringing people from Denver, and they don’t compete with private businesses. The County is reviewing stats for the Connector, and not very many people took it. It was combined with the recession and the ridership.
“When we lost the Connector, we lost a good way to get to work. Transportation is expensive. It’s hard to get people out of their cars. We’re such a car culture,” Watson said.
Belmont said that FHU planned to wrap up in April. They are looking at data from existing services and putting together a needs and gaps analysis. It positions the two counties for funding opportunities and a path moving forward.
Information will be pushed out as they get closer to the final study, Belmont said.
(Originally published in the December 14, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)