For years, employees and visitors of downtown Grand Junction have enjoyed free parking along many area streets. But now, the city says that will change.
As the weather gets warmer, the downtown Grand Junction Area becomes full of life. For years, people have enjoyed the many areas they can park for free near their favorite stores.
"I think the parking garage is a little bit far for some of us who are not old, but older," said downtown shopper Donna Ham.
But soon, Ham and others may have no choice but to park further away if they don't want to pay. The city recently decided to replace many of the downtown area's free parking signs with parking meters.
"They're really only two hour parking spots," said Jodi Romero, City Financial Operations Manager. "But because they're difficult to enforce, we know that people are staying longer than two hours in those spaces."
The city says that problem is especially prevalent among downtown employees who park in those free spots for the whole day, leaving fewer spots for visitors.
"So what we want to do is put four hour meters there so that visitors can actually have a chance to kind of park on those close end, north, south streets," said Romero.
The city says 125 parking meters will soon be going up on most of the numbered streets in the core of downtown Grand Junction, but that people will still have a few options to park for free.
"There will still be one-hundred eighty-nine free spaces on Main Street," said Romero. "So those are not going away."
The city is also removing meters to create 189 new free parking spaces in places like Colorado Avenue and 8th Street that are futher away from the central downtown area.
"For employees of the downtown area that will be parking all day long, if they'll walk a couple of extra blocks they'll be able to park in those long term spots without having to pay,' said Romero.
Several downtown businesses say even though parking meters in front of their shops mean customers will have to pay, they support the city's decision.
"I don't see that as a big issue," said Darin Mack, manager of The Trophy Case on 4th Street. "Hopefully it will free up a little bit of parking, and maybe move these people out that work in the general downtown area, and free up some places for our customers."
Even though some customers may not like it, they say having to pay a few extra quarters to park won't stop them from coming to the downtown area.
"If those were the only spots available when I come down and if I have no choice, then yes, I would park there," said Ham.
The city says the new free parking spots should open up by the end of April and that the new meters will be installed by June.