The 100 block of North Maple Avenue may be the most problematic block for parking in downtown on a day-to-day basis.
The one-way street is the most bustling block in downtown. The Post Office that anchors the northern end by Center Street has a steady flow of traffic throughout the day. To a lesser degree so do the successful specialty stores and services such as a popular barbershop.
Adding to those that park on the street are residents of nearby second floor efficiency apartments who often leave their vehicles there all day.
While the block has two off-street parking lots they were full with cars driven by customers and employees as well as those seeking assistance at an outreach center one block over on Sycamore Avenue on Thursday afternoon. The 100 block of that street at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, just like Maple Avenue had every on-street parking space filled.
It is why Councilwoman Debby Moorhead on Tuesday during council comments at the end of the council meeting asked staff to explore potential parking solutions for the Maple Avenue area.
One possible solution that Moorhead said merchants have suggested is for the city to impose parking limits — perhaps an hour on one side and two hours on the other — to allow for customers to be able to have easier access to stores, the barber shop and hair salons. They also suggested the city should create at least one on-street space for handicapped parking.
Moorhead Tuesday also suggested that the city look into the feasibility of converting Wilson Park directly behind the Post Office into a parking lot.
Wilson Park — named after former Postmaster Joseph Wilson who successfully handled vast amounts of clerical work and government forms to get the land purchased for the current main post office that opened in 1939 — is on the corner of Center Street and Sycamore Avenue.
City Attorney Don Lupal said there may be restrictions on the land that was deeded to the city that may require it be used as a park and that his office would look into it.
Wilson Park with nearly a dozen large trees that cover the area completely in shade in the summer, is used primarily as a daytime hang out by the homeless.
On Thursday Moorhead conceded that converting the park to a parking lot might be problematic and unlikely to get off the ground but added that the city needs to find solutions to address growing parking problems.
Time limits would emphasis that the on-street spaces are intended for turnover traffic whether they are diners at restaurants, people getting haircuts or those shopping in stores and not second floor residents that tend to keep their vehicles parked on the street all day.
If the city does put in place time limits they no longer have a police department employee devoted to parking enforcement. Downtown streets routinely had tires of vehicles marked and those cars that were still there when the next round was made were ticketed until 1994 when the person retired and the city opted to eliminate the position. The parking enforcement also addressed parking issues in neighborhoods.
Several merchants in the area believe simply placing signs with time limits would get the vast majority of people to voluntarily to comply. The only time limit now in place on Maple Avenue is for 10 minutes in front of the post office. Rarely are vehicles left in those spots for extended periods of time although those who are accessing postal service windows and not postal boxes to retrieve mail sometimes are in line for more than 10 minutes.
Moorhead said if the council — or appropriate city staff — puts in place parking time limits that as an elected official and a taxpayer she would expect them to be proactively enforced by the city.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org