Parking is one of those issues that, like Dracula movies, just seems to live forever. It keeps coming back again and again and again … arrrggggghhhhhhh!! Parking was actually one of the principle reasons that the Town and the Park got together to create the bus system. The Park ran out of parking (and didn’t want to create more). The business interests in the Town said, “We want all those lovely tourists and their beautiful, delicious dollars to park here!!” Since the Park would have had to pay big bucks to create more parking and destroy more Park land doing it, a way was found to transfer that parking into the Town via the bus system.
It’s worked well for a long time, but the visitor parking in Town is starting to burst through the capability of on-street and business parking now. So there is a whole page in the Town survey that asks about it. The second question is really the key to the whole thing:
2. Do you feel the Town should provide public parking areas?
I don’t gamble, but if I did, I would put money on a big “No!” vote. And that’s too bad because I’m voting “Yes.” Here’s why.
The very first thing to realize is that all those lovely tourists and their lovely money are not going away. We saw an explosion of new business in Town last year because people with money to invest have well and truly figured that out. And most of those lovely tourists are going to drive their own car into Town. And they’re going to want to park somewhere.
This is what people with money to invest call, “A business opportunity.”
So the bottom line is that somebody, sometime, somewhere is going to develop public parking areas in Town. There are two ways that this can happen:
1 – The Town can take a leading role and decide when, where, and how it will be done.
2 – Somebody with money to invest will decide when, where, and how it will be done.
That second choice includes a lot of possibilities. For example.
- Somebody could develop a megastructure in Town
You think not? The Town doesn’t allow it? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I introduce into evidence The Giant Screen Theater, La Quinta Inn, Zion Park Inn, Majestic Lodge, etc., etc. Some of these were done after long, expensive, bitter legal battles. Is that how you want it to be done?
- It can continue to be developed patch by patch, lot by lot, alongside every hotel, restaurant, T-shirt shop, and pickle noshing parlor in Town. Right now, that’s the most likely outcome because our ordinances require it. Want to see the town get gradually eaten up with postage stamp parking lots? Then just keep this system!!
- It can be developed somewhere else outside of Town. Maybe down by the sewage treatment ponds. What’s that sound I hear? A cricket chirping in an empty parking facility? Unless we hire enough cops to escort tourists personally one by one, they’re going to drive into, through, and around and around in Town looking for a place to park. Not a good experience for our visitors or anyone here either. If I had money to invest, I wouldn’t do that with it.
There is a great temptation to throw up your hands and say, “Those &^$%%##!! businesses making money off this Town are creating this problem!! Make them fix it!!” And that’s a good point. I actually agree with it. The question is, “How?” How do we make them fix it? Right now we’re making them fix it individually, one at a time. We could make them fix it by leading them to a solution that works better for everybody but there’s no sign that they will do that if the Town doesn’t provide the leadership.
At the most recent Town Council meeting where this was discussed, one of the members of the Council hit a very sympathetic note with a lot of people (me included, actually) by saying, “Before we develop a big parking facility here in Town, I want to ask which of our few remaining pastures you want to sacrifice? Which open space?”
That’s a really good question and I don’t know the answer. The development I live in owns a nice, five acre pasture and just the hint that “maybe, sometime, in the far distant future and we’re just thinking about it but we’re not going to do anything” it might get turned into a parking lot got our membership more inflamed than anything I can remember. (Well … except for the cost of fixing our roads … that remains the number one issue.) Some people here still believe that there’s a secret plot to do it. (There’s not! Really!)
But the bottom line … and this is the really, really important point … is that the pressure to do something is just not going away. Explosions that cause a lot of destruction happen because internal pressure gets big enough and then something pops.
I support a public parking facility not because I want one, but rather because every other solution is worse. If the Town doesn’t take the initiative to do this, then it will be done to us outside of our control. Our only choice to get it done on the best terms for us is to take the lead.