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In order to follow COVID-19 social distancing public health orders and support the local economy, the City of Salida has closed the 100 block of F Street and the 100 block of North F Street to motorized vehicle traffic to allow more space for restaurants and businesses to operate. As previously reported by Ark Valley Voice, the F Street closures go from Sackett to First Street, and from First to Second St. First Street itself remains open to motorized traffic, because  Colorado 291, which is maintained by the Colorado Dept. of Transportation, follows First Street through the city, and cannot be closed to traffic.

People and their dog, not all wearing masks seek shade on F Street in Salida, in front of Edward Jones Investments. Merrell Bergin photo

Ark Valley Voice spoke with different businesses within the closed-off part of the street about their feelings on the street closure. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, with just a few concerns.

Owner of the Copper Kettle Apothecary, Katie Surber, voiced her concerns about allowing all members of the community access to the closure.

“It’s still a work in progress. A person in a wheelchair can’t just get down the sidewalk. They would have to go up the wheelchair ramp and then down the wheelchair ramp. Trying to picture that, it doesn’t seem that easy. I want to see our elder and disabled people still included. The other side of that is people can sincerely stay six feet away from them. I wondered if they would make an exception for the Chaffee Shuttle.”

But Surber also voiced positives about the closure, including “Having the chance for people to stroll down the street in the sunshine. How many times in the summer are you trying to get down F Street and have to stop and wait for tourists to take a picture?”

“I think that it’s really beneficial that we can all stay a six-foot distance away from our elderly and handicapped locals,” Surber continued. “I think that is super helpful to them. I just want to see them getting around easily out here too.”

When asked if she was using the extra space she said “I thought I would step back and leave it for someone else. I’m considering investing in an A-frame sign. I would be able to purchase that from a local sign maker.”

Ark Valley Voice also spoke to Andrea Moore, who works at The Maverick Potters. “Some of my elders are being worried about not being to be close enough. [It takes] Someone like myself reminding them that we can carry things to your car. Things are good.”

McKinley and Koa McGovern add finishing touches to their art “We are all loved”, in front of Amicas expanded patio seating in Salida.

Something the city did not foresee being a positive was added space for children to play without worry.

Moore addressed this saying “I think it opens stuff up and everyone is able to keep their distance. Boys and Girls Club and things for the community [kids] are only half-open. This is the first day that I brought my son to work because I knew it would be a day for it.”

“We are talking about doing things out of the sidewalk. We’re not open full summer hours so we’re just trying to make sure that everyone is covered.”

Moore did express concerns for businesses located outside of the closure area since they do not have as captive of an audience.

“Summer is here, we need to promote where everyone needs to park so they can do the loop,” she said.  “This would allow all businesses an opportunity for business.

On North F Street in Salida, Eye Candy expands their offerings out onto the street to allow shoppers more room for social distancing. Merrell Bergin photo

Owner of Mountain High Sports, Nate Porter told Ark Valley Voice “I am in favor of it as a business owner and citizen. It’s open to me to use, but I don’t have any plans to. We usually put a sale rack out on the sidewalk just as part of our normal summer business.”

“I think the benefit to the restaurants is obvious. The benefit to businesses like mine I feel is that it collects people downtown in a responsible way who will patronize the restaurants and then hopefully patronize the businesses on those blocks as well,” said Porter. “In the interest of trying to make it all work for everybody. We’ve got to give almost everything a try. We can always go back right?”

Unmasked pedestrians in Salida stroll south on F Street in front of Sweeties Sandwiches and Deli and their expanded streetside seating

Savannah Watkins who works at the restaurant  Currents said, “We’ve had a lot more people walking around downtown, and this is a good thing for us. We have seen tourists since the street has been closed off, we have been much busier.”

Watkins went on to say “I love it. People skateboard downtown already, and kids can run around while their parents’ shop.”

The businesses within the closure limits had many positive feelings towards the closure. Since this is a fairly new project, the city says that it is” still working out the kinks”.

Overall Salida’s local businesses appear to want to support each other and the community during these social distancing times to assure that this reopening phase can bring back business to the community.