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Parking problems

Long-time problem is coming to the forefront yet again

by: KEVIN GABOURY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The parking situation in downtown Prineville has always been bad, but with new businesses moving in, as well as people, it can only get worse.

Parking has long been an issue in downtown Prineville, and with the advent of new businesses, as well as people, to the community, there are fewer spaces to go around.
   According to Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce Board President Jay Porter, the principal problem with parking in downtown Prineville, mainly in the area of 3rd Street and Main, is that "there's just not enough of it."
   "What has happened recently is we've had a couple of businesses that have been arguing with each other about customers taking up all their spaces," he said.
   However, he declined to say which businesses were involved.
   Porter also mentioned that part of the problem has been employees using spaces directly in front of other businesses, rather than parking down the street and leaving the spaces for customers.
   "A few years ago, the Chamber attempted to broker deals with businesses where the businesses would have the owners and the employees park a few blocks away and save the spots on the street for customers," he said. "This was to get them together and come to an understanding that we all have to work together and cooperate."
   However, he mentioned that because some new businesses either weren't in on the original agreement or refused to be, it has become an issue. Until about a year ago, most of Main Street was vacant, but with the recent influx of new businesses, there aren't enough spaces to go around.
   "This creates the parking crunch," he said.
   There is a City of Prineville ordinance that addresses parking in the downtown area, but it is rarely enforced by Prineville Police. Ordinance No. 883, which was passed in 1984, has only a small section on downtown parking restrictions.
   "Basically what it says is it requires people that own businesses not to park in front of other people's business," said Prineville Chief of Police Eric Bush. "The way the ordinance is written is pretty poor and difficult to enforce."
   He said the ordinance comes up on occasion, but it was drafted so long ago that almost every downtown business involved in the original version has since changed hands. When issues arise, they are addressed by police on a case-by-case basis.
   As for downtown business owners, some see the issue differently than others.
   Pine Theater owner Oniko Mehrabi hasn't seen much of a problem, but suspects this is due to the hours her business is run.
   "I think it's because of the time of our movies," she said. "Most of downtown is closed, besides the restaurant. We haven't had any issues in the evening."
   However, Lori Goodman, co-owner of the Prineville Athletic Club, feels that the situation has become serious.
   "Parking is terrible down here, and we get to hear about it every day," she said. "Somebody walks in almost daily and says, `Something needs to be done about this parking,' but there's nothing to be done because there's nowhere to park. This nice thing about being this close to the old bowling alley is that people can park over there, which has been a lifesaver."
   She also mentioned that in her time at the location, it has only gotten worse.
   "We've been here for 20 years and it's never been any different than what it is right now," she said. "It's crazy, but there's not really anywhere else to park. I really would love for there to be a remedy, but I wouldn't even begin to know what one could be."
   Porter agrees.
   "There's not a whole lot to say about it. It's a problem, but nobody has a solution," he said.