Spot-less: Pool parking riles neighbors
Kids may be thrilled that the new Onesty Family Aquatic Center is opening, but some neighbors of Meade Park, where the pool is located, have a different kind of feeling.
With capacity for 225 swimmers and only 36 parking spaces, pool neighbors fear that after opening day, June 20, the streets around the park will be filled leaving them nowhere to park in front of their own homes. Their concern mounted on Monday, June 15, when City Council delayed plans to issue street parking permits to residents.
“They used no forethought at all about any of the residents,” says Eleanor Wilson, who lives on Chesapeake Street, three houses away from the park.
"I feel betrayed," says Kevin Cox, who lives on Fairway Avenue and notes that it's not just the pool but also the City Market held Wednesdays at Meade that puts a strain on parking in the area. According to the city website, the pool will close on Wednesday's at 2pm to prepare for the market, which begins at 3pm, offering a half price daily admission.
"It's shocking to me," Cox says of Council's permit delay. "I think they care more about the success of the market than the people in the neighborhood."
Not so, says City Councilor David Brown.
“The problem is if we institute a permit program immediately, how can you gauge the problem?” Brown says. “I think we should make sure there’s a problem before we create a bureaucracy to solve it.”
City traffic engineer Jeanie Alexander echoes Brown’s sentiments.
“One of the perks of the council not picking up the measure is that we get a chance to see what the problem is,” Alexander says. “If they had put a restriction on it, we would have never known.”
Brown adds that starting permit parking would have created confusion surrounding the pool’s opening. It would be better initially, he notes, to “have the excitement of people coming to the pool, and not worrying where to park.” He also points out that permits are inconvenient not only for pool-goers, but for residents, who will have to go to City Hall to pick them up and who will have to pay $25 per space if they already have a driveway in which to park. (Those with no driveway can be allotted up to two free permits but must pay for any additional permits.)
But Brown insists he's not averse to issuing permits eventually, if they're needed.
“What we should not have is people having to walk several blocks to get to their own homes,” says Brown, who hopes the fact that the city has added a bus stop in front of the park will minimize the number of cars needing to be parked at or around the pool. A bike and pedestrian path from downtown to the park, he hopes, will also help with the parking issue.
Wilson, however, says parking is only one of her concerns– the other is safety of drivers entering and exiting the park on Meade Avenue.
With cars parked along the east side of the road, she says, “You couldn't see on your right, so you had to inch out to the double lines.”
Alexander, however, says there haven't been problems.
“We don’t have a crash history there,” Alexander says. “People are generally cautious, and if they feel uncomfortable, they usually take a different route.”
Residents will soon find out if their concerns are warranted, as the new Onesty pool will open Saturday, June 20, with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:30am.