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In Banks, weekend congestion makes parking a chore

Painting stalls on Main Street could be a good first step, consultant says

On a Tuesday afternoon in downtown Banks, visitors and residents alike have their pick of parking spaces. But those who’ve been in town on a sunny Saturday — when bicyclists flock to the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail and families crowd ball games at Sunset Park — know that finding a place to park their vehicles doesn’t come easily.

That was the general consensus at a meeting last week at city hall, where about a dozen people joined city leaders to discuss Banks’ parking problem with a hired consultant. After spending a May weekday and Saturday hanging around Banks, parking and transportation consultant Rick Williams reported his findings.

Williams’ chats around town revealed that in general, people recognize congestion as a problem when events are scheduled in town, but “it usually works itself out, people say,” said Williams. On weekends, parking for the Banks-Vernonia Trail overflows out onto Highway 47 and side streets.

Meeting attendees seemed to agree with the consultants’ recommendations to start off creating a more welcoming atmosphere for visitors and bikers downtown with adequate and clear parking.

Banks residents have also noticed that there’s a disconnect between the north and south ends of town, and many business patrons — of Five Star Builders, Banks Trail Café and NAPA Auto Parts on the north end and Jim’s Thriftway, Main Street Pizza and Chevron on the south end — stick to one end or the other while neglecting the middle of town.

Painting parking stalls on Main Street for cars and bikes could be any easy first step, Williams said, and could also slow traffic down because it makes the street look narrower. Currently, street parking on Main Street is available but not clearly marked.

Creating time limits on street parking was suggested but there were mixed feelings on the matter. Reserving at least one stall in front of business for patrons seemed a popular notion.

Many also recognize streets around Banks Elementary School back up during pick-up and drop-off times, but this is only a problem for a few hours each day during the school year. In general, people seemed to also agree that traffic moves too fast through town on Main Street.

All in all, though, Banks has a lot of parking, Williams said, it’s just not all accessible to the public. Many private lots in town have negative signage — “don’t park here” is a not-so-subliminal message — and some feel that in general, downtown Banks gives off an unwelcoming vibe when it comes to parking.

“I think parking could be handled a little more efficiently,” said one attendee. “I think we could work with businesses and use what have already better.”

Mayor Pete Edison said he foresees an even bigger future parking problem as Banks recently annexed about 200 acres of ripe-for-development land into the city limits. “Our parking problems will get worse,” he said. “We need to build capacity.”

City leaders could consider purchasing land for public parking, but a more popular suggestion to get things started seemed to be asking businesses with parking to offer their stalls to the public during slow or closed hours. Volunteers could put up signs in lots welcoming the public to park in business lots if they’re closed on the weekends or in the evenings, for example.

Williams suggested forming a work group that would meet a few times a year and spearhead parking improvement efforts in the city. One of the first steps would be to inventory parking possibilities the public could use. In the next year, he also suggested adding high-visibility bike parking, benches on Main Street, “Welcome to Banks” signs at each end of town and branding public parking so it’s easily recognizable to visitors.

Rick Williams Consulting will submit a report on the issue to the Banks City Council later this summer. Eventually, the goal will be to combine the report with city’s parks and recreation master plan, said Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker, so the city can create a project priority list.

Those interested in working on Banks parking plans can contact Becker at 503-324-5112 or jbecker@cityofbanks.org.


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