Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The way to make a better city... through parking?!

It is my belief that we are all attempting to make the world a better place. I've been focusing a lot on my town and community. We have a popular park here in Mound with a terrible parking situation.

http://g.co/maps/crs3v

Mound Bay Park (or will be called Surfside Park soon) has some of the best events for families to attend. It's on Lake Minnetonka's Cooks Bay, so offers some great views of the lake [go check out the street view on Google Maps]. Has a nice playground, a swimming beach, a fishing dock, a public boat launch and a small building for events. Most of the churches in town have a Sunday service there in the summer, the Spririt of the Lakes Festival has most of its events at this park, and our Community Ed program use the space to have a summer music series there on Thursday evening, giving families a band in the park type experience. It's truly a place one can go to in town and connect with the community.

One of the drawbacks to the park is the parking situation. It's not a huge park, so on site parking is limited. It's a Hennepin County Road that runs alongside the park, and there are no parking signs along the road by the park, though parking is allowed on the road before and after the park.

As I was driving through there a couple months or so ago, it occurred to me to ask the question, "Why not park on the street here?" The road is plenty wide and the speed limit is 35mph.

I first started with the Planning Commission, where I sit. My motion to have this even discussed was voted down, but city staff suggested I approach our Public Works Director.

So I sent an email asking about the no parking signs. His first email simply and coldly said "Both streets are County roads and are not designed to accommodate on-street parking. This is a County decision but also an engineering design issue as the roads would have to be widened to meet the design standards at an unknown cost." After some further discussion, he sent me the contact info for the county Traffic Operations Engineer.

The county engineer quickly pulled the paperwork about why no parking signs were posted along. It revealed that the Mound City Council requested that no parking signs be posted along their road! So it WAS a city decision as long as the county had "no operational or safety concerns."

I asked the city clerk for a copy of the resolution and city council minutes when the resolution was passed in 1989. Unfortunately it appeared there was no discussion, only that they voted to approve this decision.

So back to the city's Public Works Director I went with the new information that the city could make a change if there was a will. We met and he seemed to have the same information I did now, and we talked about some of the possibilities. He had went to some of the city council members from those times, to see if anyone remembered why the city asked for no parking signs along the park. He reminded me that there's a boat launch at the park, and people would launch their boats at the lake, and then park on the road. It was a nuisance, as these vehicles would impede traffic as they would be trying to get a parking space, or attempt to pull out to retrieve their boat.

I asked if it was possible to put no boat trailer parking signs. He seemed open to it, but that he would need to work with the Community Services Officer as there were some safety issues and he couldn't make the call on his own. He gave me the name of the guy to talk to at the Mound Police Department, and so off I went to have another call.

Fortunately, when I called the officer the next day, he was aware of why I called. He was very open to putting "No Boat Trailer" parking signs up next to the park. Apparently there are similar posted signs at other boat launches. He wanted to examine the potential parking situation carefully with the Police Chief and other officers, and he assured me he would get back to me in a couple weeks.

I followed up a couple weeks later with an email asking if there were more thoughts about removing the parking signs at the park. I got a brief email stating that the police looked at the situation, and felt the no parking signs needed to stay for the reasons we had discussed.

I decided not to clarify further with him, as he clearly didn't feel removing the no parking signs was a good idea from the beginning, and so reached out to the officer who I spoke with earlier.

He got back to me today, and said they went out and carefully looked at the situation, including parking a car there, and driving by with another vehicle. Here is what was told to me..

It was said it seemed precarious. There were some concerns that people driving by would be distracted by the lake, and view, and creating a dangerous situation for people who park there. They also suggested the county wouldn't allow this.

I realized early as we were talking that the parking situation wasn't going to change. So we spoke at length about what it meant. I reminded him that this clearly was a city decision in 1989, and that it's easy to pass the buck off to someone else in situations like this. Clearly no one wants to take ownership of this, so everyone is pointing to everyone else that they are the reason our park is inaccessible as this. I also strongly made the point that this park is not there for those who are driving by to enjoy the view. It's a destination park, that is to be enjoyed by those who actually go to the park. I made the broader point about how we need to treat our city, streets and parks, for the people who actually live there. I'm hoping the next situation they look at they might keep this ideas in mind.

I thanked him for his time and service, and look forward to working with him in the future.

I look at the work I put into these efforts so far, and it does seem a bit silly to spend so much time to work for _parking spaces_, but as this is clearly a hub of community activity, I really believe if we can make it more accessible it will make our city a little bit of a better place.

Quality reading if interested in these topics...



http://www.strongtowns.org/
http://www.mncompletestreets.org/

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