Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Parking is a pool problem

June 15, 2006

Summer is here. It's hot. The swimming pool is cool. Parking is a problem.

Much like death and taxes, Baldwin City finds itself in the same predicament again this year. Too many people want to cool off at the Baldwin City Municipal Pool, which is located in the heart of the city without sufficient parking to handle the hordes.

It happened before the new pool was built there and it will happen until some alternatives are found. That's not going to happen this year, so the only advice is be patient.

"That's right," said City Council Member Tony Brown, who is also a frustrated pool attendee. "There's an end in sight (to the problem). There's not an end in sight this year. What we want to do is better communicate."

Brown is also a member of the city's community development committee and the pool parking was the major topic at Monday's meeting. The committee came up with some long-range solutions, but nothing that's going to happen this summer.

"We know the parking stinks over there," said Brown. "But we don't want to pave green space. The playground doesn't work there. The flow isn't there.

"We want to do a long-term fix to make it better," he said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything to help pool patrons this year."

For most, that means parking and walking. Fremont Street parking is illegal between Third and Fourth streets. Parking is allowed on the west side of Third Street between High and Fremont streets. Parking on the south side of Fremont from Third to Second streets is also allowed. However, that's it. Also, cars must have two tires on the pavement on those streets that are involved.

The no parking areas are marked with signs. It is enforced, too. People that park in those areas will be ticketed.

"Well, yeah," said Police Chief Mike McKenna. "Not just at the pool, that's anywhere in the city limits. I think what the city is trying to do is find some additional spaces at the pool for parking.

"For now, we're just stuck," said McKenna. "People will just have to park where it's legal and walk. It's a seasonal problem. It's up to the city to say where parking is legal. It's up to us to enforce it."

Brown is working the McKenna to make a map of the area and clearly define where it's legal to park. It will be posted at the pool. That's communication and is the only quick help.

The long-range plans are more detailed.

"We are looking at some long-range plans for redesigning the Grove Park site," said Brown. "This plan is rather ambitious, but includes the following projects:

1. Clearing out the creek that runs through the east side of the park.

2. Replacing the bridge that goes from the picnic shelter area to the south side of the pool.

3. Relocating the current "kiddy" playground equipment to the north side of the creek.

4. Installing a large playground piece (with slides and tunnels and climbing parts, suitable for 5-12 year kids) in the lawn area just east of the creek. This area would be an integrated play area for children from preschool to junior high age, adjacent to the pool for easy access during the summer months.

5. Building a parking lot in the current playground area south of the creek.

6. Potential relocation of the picnic shelter south of the creek to north of the creek.

7. Relocation and installation of more picnic tables in the playground area north of the creek.

8. Potential construction of an additional bridge across the creek on the east side of the pool.

"Obviously, these are very long-range plans and will be done in phases over a number of years," he said. "But we are starting the process of at least planning for and even pricing these changes.

"Unfortunately, these plans don't do much for the current parking crisis at the pool," said Brown. "One of the things that would certainly help this problem would be cool weather, but I don't know how much we can count on that prospect actually happening.

Aside from the map being worked on to detail the area, there are other short-term remedies being taken. Brown said they include:

1. Pool employees have been asked to park in the lot on the southeast corner of the pool (by Tom Russell's house) so as to free up more spaces on Fremont in front of the pool. This seems to be helping with the parking situation in the short term, although it is difficult to gauge due to the recent cool weather.

2. For parents with small children (for whom walking long distances may be an issue), I'm trying to brainstorm some compromise solution in which they could drop their children at the pool entrance, have the desk "watch" them while their parent parks the car, and then rejoin them on entry. I don't know if this solution would work at all, but I'm going to think through it for a while to see if I can get a mature plan out of it.."

3. Encourage patrons to ride their bikes to the pool. Bike racks are a heck of a lot cheaper than parking lots.

"In short, parking is a problem and, unfortunately, we can't address it with a quick fix," said Brown. "Let me be clearer: we could address it with a quick fix, but we don't think that is the prudent action to take. What we want to do is take a broader, more comprehensive view of the entire park and make it a more functional space.

"This strategy doesn't help this summer's pool patrons out very much, but we think it will be beneficial to residents of Baldwin City in the future," he said.

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