Parking spaces

Big events show needs — and solutions

June 29, 2005

The mid-point of the year brings changes to one of Hood River’s most beloved cultural events: First Friday.

The art walk event returns July 1, and exemplary art and musical offerings can be expected once again.

With the success of the event, the sponsoring Hood River Downtown Business Association has changed some of the rules in the interest of efficient sidewalk use and making sure all artistic expressions receive their due.

Here is a summary of the new rules:

* The biggest change is that all vendors and entertainers that are on the street or sidewalks during First Friday need to have a permit. Those that are not sponsored by a HRDBA member or hold a permit will not be allowed to perform or display art.

* No amplified music will be allowed on Oak Street, and all street venue locations must be reserved.

* Fundraisers, political issues, and other non-art groups are invited to locate on the sidewalk area in front of the Georgiana Smith Memorial Park (library lawn) or in front of City Hall on a first-come, first-served basis.

* Oak Street between Front and Second and Second and Sixth Streets will be closed for traffic during First Friday events.

June’s first Friday saw massive parking demands downtown, thanks to good weather and a burgeoning slate of activities. Friday’s event is likely to be just as well-attended. Patience is in order, as well as adherence to parking rules and rules of common sense, particularly in those hard-to-define areas where intersection visibility and the rights of property owners must be respected.

Meanwhile, the city has embarked on a long-range parking study for downtown.

The city deserves credit for a novel idea to help soften the impact, for some people, of getting ticketed for expired parking time. (For details, turn to RaeLynn Ricarte’s article on A1.) City manager Bob Francis plans to issue Downtown Business Association (DBA) owners five parking ticket waivers per month. These can be redeemed for $1 to provide short-term relief for clients.

The coupons issued by the city are intended to help out shoppers who have forgotten to plug the meter and can produce a receipt to show a purchase from the store. It’s a good way to spare customers from the regular $10 fine for a parking violation, while offering a gentle nudge for future reference. (Waivers will not apply to other infractions and cannot be used by employees or business owners. A one-coupon per customer per month policy would also be a good idea.)

Parking will remain a “hot button” issue until more parking spaces are added — an expensive, long-range solution — or until downtown employees and business owners un-learn old habits such as parking in the same block of their own place of employment. Park-and-ride facilities are not unprecedented but take intensive planning and education to make them work. Which means it is a good idea the city is starting to look into it now.

One model might be the shuttle service in use this very week to bring Thomas the Tank Engine riders from the Event Site to the Mt. Hood Railroad Depot.

The Event Site land is available, at least for now, and it’s close to, and visible from, downtown. To make a permanent shuttling system work, a link with the CAT bus service might be just the needed pick-up.

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