Gridlock on a grand scale capped off Palmer Lake’s fireworks display Monday night. Growth on the county’s north side and city dwellers’ desire to avoid crowds at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs have pushed the Fourth of July turnout in Palmer Lake steadily higher, town officials say.
They’re pondering ways to ease next year’s post-show exit. An estimated crowd of 15,000-plus — more than four times the town’s population — jammed Palmer Lake’s streets, Colorado Highway 105, and Spruce Mountain and County Line roads. Vehicles inched along or sat immobile on downtown’s main thoroughfare for about 45 minutes after the display. A medical helicopter landed beside the lake at the show’s end to fly an injured pyrotechnist to a Denver hospital. But that played no part in the traffic jam, police said. “It was just too many cars and not enough road,” Palmer Lake Police Chief Dale Smith said. “We even had a (traffic) plan that went out the window.” The holiday traffic problem is an annual event, but it reached its peak this year. Years ago, traffic cleared in about 15 minutes, Smith said. Last year, it took 30 to 45 minutes; this year almost an hour. “We’re a victim of our own success,” said town clerk Della Gray, who sits on the Palmer Lake fireworks committee. Mary Russelavage, president of the fireworks committee, said that next year, “If we have to beg, borrow and steal, we have to raise the money to pay for traffic control.” Smith brought in Monument police officers and additional Palmer Lake officers to control this year’s holiday traffic. Town police will meet soon to talk about the problem and consider solutions, Smith said, but he’s uncertain what those might be. “It’s hard to close down a public highway,” Smith said. “Maybe have people buy tickets. I don’t know.” Palmer Lake’s Leah Root, who lives near the Monument town line, may have hit upon the best way to avoid the frustration. Her family and friends staked out a lakeside spot before the show and didn’t immediately leave it late Monday. “We just hung out until we could move,” she said. “I think the traffic is just expected.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4817 or firstname.lastname@example.org