Parking solutions move beyond meters

June 1, 2005

Hood River’s tourist season has begun — but the influx of summer visitors will heat up the debate over a lack of parking spaces.

“Up until the first part of June we don’t really have a problem, but there is a perceived parking problem after that. Visitors are here to walk around, so this really isn’t their issue, but most locals want to park close to their destination,” said Bob Francis, city manager.

The city council believes the busier traffic months between June-September are the perfect time to have a consultant on the scene. Officials believe any outstanding issues will be brought to light during that time period.

The city plans to spend $35,000 to hire a professional by this summer to study the alternative parking options. For example, one possibility is shuttling downtown business employees — who take up about half of the available spaces — to work from another location. Another idea is to provide a developer with a free long-term lease of downtown property in exchange for the construction of a parking structure.

The study is being done at the request of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), which has formed its own parking committee to make recommendations for change.

“We have a very active role and interest in the process because that will tell us where the weaknesses are and how they can be addressed,” said Joanie Thomson, DBA coordinator.

Meanwhile, the council has approved a 30-minute grace period for motorists when time on a parking meter expires just as the enforcement officer arrives.

“We are going to take a more customer-friendly approach and issue a warning instead of a ticket for minor infractions. However, if our officer continues along her route and then returns to find the meter still empty, she will be writing out a ticket,” said Francis.

He is asking employees and business owners in the downtown area to voluntarily agree to park elsewhere during the peak tourism months. Saturday Market is also being moved to the Columbia Street lot on June 25 to avoid the parking limitations around its current State Street location.

Francis said that at the end of the parking study, the DBA could be asked to form an Economic Development District. If that idea is approved, an assessment would be levied on the square footage or value of each property and then placed into a special fund. Monies from that pot could be used to pay for employee parking permits in city lots or other identified projects.

The parking consultant will make recommendations in October to the city council based on his/her inventory of all public and private lots and spaces. That individual will also factor in interviews with business owners about their parking needs.

More than three decades ago, officials hoped to solve as least some of the parking issues by installing meters. The goal was to move business owners and employees into the city’s paid parking lots and and free up on-street parking for shoppers and visitors. The meters were intended to keep traffic flowing along to create a high turnover in vacant spaces. Francis said that while that goal has been somewhat accomplished, finding an open space along the crowded streets within the business corridor is still a challenge.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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