Parking at the Park

Here is another one from the Writing About Place archives. I’ve removed a few commas from the original. I don’t know what I was thinking with all those commas. Written in December 2012, this is the only time I ever attempted to write satire. I’m afraid it isn’t nearly as clever or as funny as I would have liked it to be, but here it is.

Parking at the Park

Today, I want to bring your attention to the atrocious problem we have here in the city of Minneapolis in regards to parking at the parks. It seems no matter how hard we try, it is still far too easy for people to park at our lovely city parks. There are several reasons why we need to make parking at the parks more difficult.

The first reason, overuse, is a major one. Every time I visited a park this past summer, there were always lots of people there. There does, of course, need to be accommodation for some people in the parks, but at the rate we’re going, people will have used up all the parks and there won’t be anything left for our grandchildren. The other, and probably more important, reason is that every time I try and park at a park, I end up driving around for hours looking for a parking place. Imagine all those cars driving around for hours looking for parking spots. Burning all that gasoline is bad for the environment, and ever since I was made aware of the dangers of global warming, I have been trying to live a greener life and encouraging others to do so as well.

It’s true, that the parks department has made some headway into the issue of parking. I remember when I was just a lad and we would go to the Point Beach on Cedar Lake. It was easy to park. We just drove our full size, gas-guzzling, Ford LTD across town, pulled into the parking lot, and parked. No fuss, no muss, it was way too easy. Now, the lot is split into two areas. Half of the lot has parking meters that you can pay so that you can park your car by the half-hour, hour, or two-hour maximum. This is especially effective for those who tend to accidentally lose track of time at the beach. There’s nothing like an expiring parking meter to remind one of one’s priorities. The other half of the lot is reserved for patron parking. Some of you may ask, what exactly is patron parking? Well, let me tell you all about it.

According to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board website, “The Annual Patron Parking Permit offers 12 months of easy parking at regional parks in Minneapolis. Permit holders enjoy parking privileges in specially designated parking spaces at some of the park system’s most popular regional parks including Minnehaha Park, Lake Harriet, and the garden areas at Theodore Wirth Park.” Now I know what you’re thinking. That sounds too easy. They even say the permit offers easy parking. But this is why it was such a brilliant move. They said it was easy, but when they started the program, it confused almost everybody. Most park-goers either didn’t see the patron parking signs, or just ignored them.

I remember one visit to the aforementioned Cedar Point Beach in which I had the auspicious good fortune to meet a woman who had just been ticketed for parking in a patron spot. She hadn’t seen the large blue sign posted at the lot’s entrance. Serves her right I say. Can’t be bothered to learn all of the obscure parking rules related to the city parks, she deserved a $40 ticket. The main problem with the patron parking is that people have gotten too used to it. I think it is past time to change up the rules in order to make the parking system unfathomable once again. One thing we can do, is limit the ways in which park-goers can purchase patron parking passes. Right now it’s far to easy to acquire one, as they are available online, and at six different park offices. There should be just one centralized location. This would cut down on park overhead costs as well.

Another major problem with the park’s parking system is that there is still far too much free parking. Not only are there free parking spaces along the many wide areas of the city’s parkways, but the parking at all park Recreation Centers is free. While it is true that the neighborhood Recreation Centers do not have the same overuse problems that many of the city parks do, people do park in the Recreation Center parking lots, and then go on to use the associated city park.

I have even met people who will park on the city streets near a park in order to use the park’s facilities without paying for parking; can you imagine? I think it is obvious that all of this free parking can only be bad for our park system. We should put an end to this ease of parking immediately by expanding the use of parking meters, changing the city’s rules regarding the availability of parking on the city streets near parks, and extending the range of park patron permit parking. Thank you all for reading, and please join me next week, when I will be discussing the role of lifeguards in our city parks. They cost more to employ than the grass mowers and the park trash collectors combined. Do lifeguards really save lives, and if so, are those lives really worth saving?

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