Too Little Parking? It Does Happen, In Fact

Lakeside Commons Beach
I’ve written previously about the angst and mayhem surrounding the parking situation at Blaine’s Lakeside Commons Park. To recap the history of this park and its parking situation:

  • Lakeside Commons Park was opened in 2010 and built using standard set-aside land and monies from housing development in Blaine.
  • The park has many features and amenities, including a large rentable pavilion for family reunions and large-scale festivities, a boat launch, running paths, beach and splash pad. A triathlon is held there annually. In brief, it acts more as a regional park than a “city” amenity.
  • The park was built with 72 permanent parking stalls — fewer than advised for similar parks, for which a minimum of 200 spaces would be suggested.
  • Permits, overflow parking and other approaches have been used to address the fact that inadequate parking was built, especially given the park’s location in the city it formally serves — and the fact that 35% of park users are not city residents.

Lakeside Park Parking

Well, welcome to 2013. In prior years, the city of Blaine implemented permit-based and pay parking, and waived city ordinances to allow parking on unpaved surfaces/grassy lots. This year, parking at Lakeside Commons will be wholly restricted to the 72-spot parking area, with no grassy parking available because the field previously in use as overflow is being used for development — its original intended use. Permits will still be required to park in those 72 stalls, with permits free for city residents, and $5/day, or $25/season for non-residents.

But wait! The city is encouraging on-street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods, and has been so kind as to provide a map of where people can park in the neighborhood. The neighbors, who have previously complained about the noise, influx of traffic, and general chaos of the nice city park they live near turning into a regional destination, are undoubtedly going to be delighted. Plus, the on-street parking, while requiring people to actually walk a few blocks to access the beach, splash pad, and other amenities will be free, without any permitting requirement.

This is the inevitable result of inadequate planning. While parking is rarely an efficient use of space, it does have a purpose — especially in a space that can accommodate large groups, large events, and large numbers of people, with the amenities to make those people all wish to be accommodated. But the parking fails to accommodate. Even with an improvement of access to the area with bicycle-friendly amenities, better road crossings of Radisson Road, 72 stalls was nowhere near realistic. The picnic shelter alone accommodates groups of 150!

The city of Blaine rarely puts in place policies or infrastructure that actively encourages non-motorized transport. In this instance, they’ve also made their preferred mode of transport awkward at best, and the likely source of considerable neighborhood howling. And this year, they won’t even get the revenue offset to pay for the added policing required of this parking scenario.

Sometimes, parking is a necessary evil. Because the result of not having it? Worse.

Update, May 20: The city of Blaine has managed to negotiate use of a giant vacant lot near the park for overflow parking. There is a crosswalk between the lot and the park entrance. I’m going to assume the city rule about parking lots has been dealt with again, seeing as city ordinance forbids using vacant lots as parking save for Senior PGA tournaments.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

6 thoughts on “Too Little Parking? It Does Happen, In Fact

  1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

    I will fully admit I have never been to this park. However, it seems like the issues you cite stem from the entire area being car-dependent, local neighbors having negative attitudes, and people’s general unwillingness to pay for parking as a conditioned expectation – not a lack of parking. The streets in the local neighborhood are a whopping half mile walk from the center of the park (at most), and are paved and maintained with city money. I’m sure the local residents may not like people parking on the street to enjoy the park they personally live within walking distance of, but this is a very viable solution, and one that city managers should not be coerced in to backing down on.

    Clearly, demand for FREE parking has exceeded supply – people were willing to pay the daily/season pass cost, why can’t the city charge a lower rate for on-street parking proportional to the walking distance? In the mean time, the answer is for the city to continue enhancing non-motorized options, change zoning to allow for more people to have access to parks within walking distance, and increase number/quality of parks in general with the revenue from better land-use.

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      I think that saying zoning should encourage active transport is relevant, and I’ve said it before myself. But I think the issues in this particular case go a little deeper. The things you mention, and that I’ve mentioned before, really relate to this park being defined as a city park. In general, Blaine’s done well with having people be able to easily access city/neighborhood parks within their nearby area. There are unique sites in the park lineup that have special offerings — like the baseball complex, soccer complex, and the curling rink — that have access and parking that reflect the greater draw of the facility within and beyond city limits.

      Lakeside Commons is not truly a city park, regardless of who is paying for it and the sign on it. The amenities offered at this site are unique among the park properties in the city, and compare favorably to the amenities offered by regional parks. Once you get into the regional park definition, you are looking at a property that draws from a much wider population zone — and, in this case, a zone that is not actively contributing to park maintenance and upkeep costs, as happens with county parks and similar.

      The parking setup at this park tries to act as though it’s a city park, like other standard-level city parks. The streets around this park are generally narrow, and lack sidewalks and similar access that would make encouraging street parking as a regular thing and not as an exception case (as with the triathlon) more contextual. Instead, you have 35%+ of park users coming from the region, not from the locality, driving about narrow, curvy streets with limited pedestrian options, making a lot of noise from early day-well past 10PM.

  2. Curt

    The neighbors should create a parking benefit district. Charge visitors for parking on the street and use the revenue for neighborhood improvements.

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      The neighborhood in question, it’d probably just reduce the HOA fees. The development that “hosts” this city park is a mixed-type housing development with a bunch of trails and other amenities within the “bounds” of what the developer had to build on. It’s a very suburban kind of build, where the in-bounds trails don’t necessarily connect out strongly to the greater community, but that’s also a factor of the greater community. Blaine has strong dividing roads (a CSAH and a MN state road) that are high-speed through streets. So getting out of many subdivisions, both old and new, can have some challenges.

  3. minneapolisite

    I think it depends on what kind of parking we’re talking about: parking for cars? Bikes? Scooters/Motorcycles? I see bike racks full at numerous locations where surrounding meters and poles are full of bikes. Where are the minimum bike parking requirements? I know Mpls not only has too little designated motorized two-wheel parking; it’s non-existent as far as I know. I’m sure this park faces the a similar situation, except the ratio of motorists is higher due to a more car-dependent environment. If more some parking was made available for car *alternatives* that would certainly help alleviate the issue to some degree.

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