EDITORIAL: Putting Up A Sign is Not Enough
Snow plow storage taking up prime parking spots at Prescott school.
At their August 29 meeting, Selectmen asked Town Manager Haddad to ‘put up a sign’ at Prescott School announcing the availability of public parking at the building. While officially designating this area for municipal parking is a good idea, much more needs be done to turn the paved area around Prescott School into a municipal parking lot worthy of the name. With a little organization and imagination, this parking area has the potential to become a catalyst for increased economic activity and social interaction in the Center, moving the Center closer to achieving one of the Master Plan’s goals.
Currently, the parking area at Prescott is a parking lot in name only – it’s really just a large, open expanse of unmarked tarmac. There are no lines designating parking places, no pedestrian walkways, no priority spaces for short-term parking, no parking for the handicapped or the elderly, and almost no signage for traffic and pedestrian management and safety. The pavement is unkempt; people park wherever they want, including on the grass at the front of Prescott.
Having a convenient central location to park, and then walking to multiple nearby businesses instead of driving and parking at separate establishments within the Center has many benefits. From the perspective of personal convenience, it makes taking care of personal business simpler and easier as well as reducing Main Street traffic and pedestrian danger.
To achieve this vision, creating a welcoming, convenient, secure facility is paramount. It’s a battle of convenience. We need to make it more enjoyable and more efficient to park here and walk to several locations than it is to park and then drive to various locations in the Center.
From the point of view of community and relationship building, people would likely linger longer in the Center if they got out of their cars and walked around. Just as companies encourage spaces for chance social interaction, for the exchange of ideas and information, getting people walking around would make chance meetings possible, encouraging exchange of ideas and information.
The location of the Prescott lot is ‘perfect’ because almost all variety of government and business services are in a short walking distance from it. Turning the Prescott lot into a great municipal parking asset may not be as grandiose as the Four Corners sewer project, but it is a lot cheaper, and if well executed may actually have a real impact on business development in the Center.
Here’s a few things to be done to make this a useful municipal parking lot:
• Clean and sealcoat the tarmac.
• Install parking control lines.
• Designate parking for short-term use, for the elderly and the handicapped, all as close to the street as possible.
• Arrange for the long-term tenants of Prescott School to park in a specially designated area at the rear of the building, leaving prime spots near the street for residents using local services.
• Talk to the Planning Board. They have a depth of experience implementing good parking lot design.
• Store the heavy snowplows in another location to free up high quality parking on the Moison Ace Hardware side of Prescott.
• Promote this public facility with local businesses by offering incentives, maybe even some temporary signs to encourage people not to park on the street but in the new municipal lot.