Skip has a bold new idea for Main Street

Skip Harvey has a cwazy idea.

Except this time, it might not be so cwazy to turn the south frontage road on Main Street into a combination pedestrian mall and small festival place.

Harvey, the owner of the Base Camp Café, which would benefit from such a makeover, also is mayor of the town.

The makeover, called “an experiment,” would hit the road, so to speak, in Mid-June and last until the end of September.

It’s called the Main Street Market Place 2011. It would turn the frontage road in front of the Outlet Mall, along with the so-called P-3 Mall and all the way down to Center Street, into a one-way street and pedestrian walkway.

Pedestrians would occupy one side of the street, separated by log barriers from the (huge) summer SUVs that rumble down that road. Umbrella tables would be scattered about. Benches would be conveniently placed. The Farmers Market would expand.

It would be a kind of summer-long Kumbaya if it works.

Harvey has some ammunition behind him.

When he presented his idea to the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission on Wednesday, he was backed by Public Works Director Ray Jarvis and longtime businessman Tom Cage, owner of the P-3 Mall.

Here’s the (basecamp) idea, in short:

The Farmers Market (Wednesdays only) would move from its previous spot in front of the Base Camp Café and P-3. It would move to the Outlet Mall parking lot.

A “pedestrian corridor” would stretch down the street. Traffic would be one-way, west-to-east.

In the grand scheme, seasonal tents, called EZ-Ups, would be set along the pedestrian walkway. Visitors and locals alike would flock along the corridor, snapping up whatever looked good from retailers along the way.

Maybe they’d stop and have an iced tea at, say, the Base Camp Café or Schat’s.

Harvey and Jarvis displayed a map to the Planning Commission Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t a rendition, in any sense, but it gave the commissioners a sense of what its configuration might be.

The cost of set-up and tear-down would be absorbed by the property owners within the market place area.

Town costs (the log traffic barriers, street striping and so on) would amount to $12,000 - $15,000. The cost would be divided among the properties, based on the amount of frontage each property has in the market area.

But will it work?

“Any time you try something new or make changes to existing traffic patters, there is a risk involved,” Harvey said in his report to the commission.

“The property owners and businesses who have agreed to participate in the Main Street Market Place 2011 are willing to take the risk.”

Jarvis said if the experiment is successful, the town government may be on board to make incremental steps to make it permanent.

In the meantime, there are some concerns, such as parking.

With an expanded farmers market and booths and tables distributed here and there, parking spots will be lost.

One idea, Harvey said, is to create parking behind the cluster of shops along the way. Those spots currently are taken up by employee parking, Cage said, so that issue would have to be worked out.

But the central idea, said Harvey, is “to change something that has basically been the same for over 25 years.”

“It would provide color and animation to the area through the use of planters, benches and outdoor shopping opportunities.

“Main Street is and should be the heart of our town.”