Free parking set aside for First Friday

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

August 3, 2005

Two new parking lots have been made available free of charge to people attending First Fridays in downtown Hood River.

Mt. Hood Railroad has offered use of its parking lot at the junction of Cascade Avenue and Front Street. For those willing to walk a few extra blocks, the Port of Hood River is now allowing public parking in the waterfront lot just south of the Expo Center.

“We are encouraging downtown business owners and employees to park near the Expo Center on First Fridays,” said Bob Francis, city manager.

He said the growing popularity of First Friday during the tourist season has brought some traffic challenges. With 2,000-4,000 people strolling along Oak Street, it has become necessary for public safety to close a large section of roadway. One evening each month, from July through September, First to Sixth streets are blocked off to motorists from 5 to 8 p.m.

When a special occasion requires Oak Street to be blocked off, Francis said the surrounding east/west avenues of travel are left open. Streets that run in a north/south direction may be closed at the same time if officials deem that traffic flows will not be seriously impeded.

Because of the growing First Friday crowds, the DBA has hired four security workers — who are dressed in yellow T-shirts with the DBA logo — to enforce the following conduct rules:

All vendors and entertainers along the street must have a permit to be on the sidewalk.

No amplified music is allowed along the street to prevent a “bleed-over” of sound from one musician to another.

Electric bands are confined to the parking lot of Big Winds on Front Street. Interested performers may call Kathy Sneider at IKOTE, 387-3786, to sign up for a time slot.

Street music and artist venue locations are limited to three intersections along Oak Street. To reserve a spot, call Joanie Thomson, DBA coordinator, at 308-6738.

Fund-raising and political groups are restricted to the sidewalk in front of the Hood River County Library lawn, or in front of the City Administration Building on a first-come, first-served basis.

Skateboards are prohibited from being used for travel on either the sidewalk or the street.

Area bars will face sanctions from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission if citizens are allowed to leave the premises with an open container of alcohol. Business are only allowed to provide a taste of any wine selection and not a full serving.

“We want to keep First Friday an art-driven event and not have it turn into a free-for-all,” said Thomson.

Francis said some parents have begun dropping their children downtown on First Fridays and telling them to stay within the barricades. He is asking that elementary and middle school age youth be accompanied by an adult to prevent any safety issues from arising.

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