Located roughly 13 miles into the Poudre Canyon, the Mishawaka Amphitheatre, (the ‘Mish’), has not only offered shows but also a chance to spend a weekend with friends camping, eating and partying for years.
In July, the Mishawaka’s owner, Robin Jones, put an end to camping around the facility because of persistent complaints from the public and growing concerns from local officials.
“There is not enough parking around the facility. (Jones) has to figure out where to put 500 to 800 cars in enough room for maybe 150,” said Maj. Bill Nelson of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
Local officials and Jones have been meeting every year for the last two to three years to discuss parking and other concert-related issues.
“Our issue is the parking and pedestrians,” said Capt. Bill Parish of the Colorado State Patrol. “Jones sells more tickets than he has parking for so it forces the people who are walking to walk around in the middle of the road.”
Some of the parking for shows occurs just along the edge of Highway 14, right across from the theater. As a result of early partiers and tailgaters, the traffic through that part of the canyon is often congested and becomes a hazard for both pedestrians and drivers.
The Colorado State Forest Service also has problems with the area around the Mishawaka.
“There is no camping or fires allowed within a quarter mile of the Poudre from miles 116 to 73 and there are only two campgrounds close to the Mishawaka and they fill up quickly – anything else is a bit of a drive,” said Reghan McDaniels, the public affairs officer for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District. “Most of the tickets that we have given out are for people who are camping on the river and not following regulations.”
More changes may be on the way.
Larry Haas of Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) said his agency plans to implement more restrictions on motorists parking at the venue.
“We have 30 signs up right now restricting overnight parking from 2 to 6 a.m. At the end of September it will change to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. We’ll try the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and if we still don’t get any compliance then we’ll remove parking all-together,” Haas said.
Jones said that after the recent restrictions there have been no problems with officials and ticket sales have not slumped. He also said there are a few local residents who are opening up their land to concertgoers, and there might be some other ways to put more camping around his venue.
“We are working on different alternatives, like a bridge and working with CDOT.” Jones said. “I own land across the Poudre and if we put the bridge in for additional parking we will also add some campsites.”
Nelson is skeptical that this construction could be completed in time for next summer, but he appreciates the steps that Jones had taken.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had an accident yet,” Nelson said. “But, everyone is in agreement that (an accident) is waiting to happen.”