By Angelo Parlove
For any solution the city might decide on, Saline Parks Commission Member Jim Peters broke down the components: safety, function and cost.
“Your project has to meet those three in that order,” Peters said.
The City of Saline is considering all possible options to resolve the current parking issue at Peoples’ Park, including ways to add a new parking lot. With the 30-unit Fairdene Condominium development headed next door on Monroe Street, the usual on-site parking for the area will be used as part of the property for the new condos.
At the moment, residents looking to drive to the park have to use street parking.
“I am here to voice our opinion, at least my opinion, and ask that the childrens’ safety is taken into play,” Mark Good, president of Saline Area Youth Baseball and Softball (SAYB&S), told the parks commission members at their regular meeting June 20 at City Hall. “There are a lot of little kids who end up there, because they’re with a brother or sister who is playing ball.”
SAYB&S uses the ball field at Peoples’ Park for several months each year, with as many as six teams utilizing the park each season. Those ballplayers are 11-12 years old.
“We are there only maybe three or four months, but you’ll notice most days out of the week, there are a significant number of cars that are lining the road,” Good added.
The parks commission has been slated with the task of coming up with an appropriate solution for the parking dilemma at Peoples’ Park, in which their decision will be recommended to city council for approval and implementation, most likely in the upcoming months.
“For me, I can’t support anything that takes away from the greenery of the city,” Parks Commission Member Karin Haynes said. “I came on this commission because I love the parks in Saline, because of the beauty of the greenery, and if you take that away, I cannot endorse that.”
The city first proposed putting a parking lot on the south side of Peoples’ Park, which would house about 25 spaces. Many residents, especially those living nearby, oppose the plan due to the green space that would be lost for the new parking area.
However, other community members are concerned the on-street parking is a dangerous situation when dropping off kids, especially for the youth baseball and softball games.
“While I trust the right decision is going to be made, the one thing I would ask is take the safety of the children and the parents, in particular even the elderly grandparents, aunts and uncles and such, into play when you make your decision on what’s going to be done with the parking situation,” Good said.
The parks commission is working through the factors: safety, function and cost.
“I know this gets emotional because we have neighbors involved, but I also have to think about 9000 people in Saline, not just a few,” Peters said. “I wouldn’t be in favor of anything that proposes street parking. I really just don’t want to be part of that.”
The commission held a special meeting at Peoples’ Park on June 20, with commission members and city staff walking through the area and considering the options. The regular meeting was then held afterwards in council chambers, where the discussion was continued.
The options explored included the proposed parking lot and on-street parking. However, other solutions might be possible. One plan would be to expand the parking lot at Annie’s Children Center (211 Monroe Street), which could then be used by both the childcare facility as well as the park. Deborah Barnes, the owner of Annie’s, proposed the idea to the city.
“Expanding Deb’s lot does make, from a safety standpoint, the most sense,” said Neil Moorman, the chairperson of the parks commission. “But $65,000 is a lot of money to swallow.”
The city would need to assume the cost to construct the parking lot at Annie’s, which is estimated at $65,000. The city would also need to make room in a future budget for the project, which could happen at earliest, if at all, in 2019, Moorman said.
The parking lot on the south side of Peoples’ Park – the one the city proposed – would also cost $65,000, but could be covered with TIFA funds. Annie’s is outside park boundaries and would not be eligible for TIFA dollars.
“Anything to modify Annie’s parking or expand that is not eligible,” said Carla Scruggs, the parks and recreation director, who also serves as the city staff liaison to the parks commission.
Another idea is to modify Annie’s parking area to also host a drop-off site, which could be used after business hours for the park. Pathways would be installed from the drop-off location to the ball field and other areas of the park. After unloading, vehicles would then utilize on-street parking. The pathways would likely qualify for TIFA funds.
The drop-off site could be a stop-gap option until funding becomes available to fully expand Annie’s parking lot, Scruggs suggested.
Another contending plan would be to convert the tennis-court area into parking, which would be accessed through Annie’s. A new tennis court would then be installed near the basketball court.