City puts up temporary ‘no parking’ signs near Leeds swimming hole

  • New, temporary “no parking” signs on Main Street near the Mill River in Leeds. GRETA JOCHEM

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2020 12:36:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Temporary “no parking” signs lined parts of Main Street, Florence Street and Grove Avenue in Leeds on Tuesday. There was already “no parking” signage in some places, but in others, the restriction, put in place in late July, is new.

On a hot day, people park on Main Street and nearby and walk to the Mill River to cool off near the Orange Dam, which is owned by Chartpak, an art and office supply company. While residents have aired complaints about litter, noise and trespassing, the city says parking has become a safety issue. Some neighbors say the parking ban keeps visitors out, while others want permanent parking restrictions. 

“A concerning side effect of the increased traffic around the swimming sites in Leeds has been an unsafe situation in the roadways,” reads a recent statement by the city signed by Mayor David Narkewicz, Police Chief Jody Kasper and Director of Public Works Donna LaScaleia, among other officials. The new yellow signs are there to make sure the roads are safe and that emergency vehicles and equipment can navigate the streets, the statement said.

The Department of Public Works measured the streets,and in some places, “the roadway was not wide enough to support parking on both sides of the street,” Narkewicz told the Gazette Monday. Some cars were also parking illegally in front of fire hydrants and on bridges, Narkewicz said.

Jason Johnson, vice president of the Leeds Civic Association (LCA), said he thinks the temporary ban has resulted in less congestion on Main Street. There’s still plenty of spaces for people to park, he said, adding, “I’m not so sure that it’s limited people’s accessibility to come to the neighborhood.”

Many people in the association would like to see parking restrictions implemented in the long term — the LCA knocked on doors and sent emails to survey 70 residents, the majority of whom said they would like to see parking restricted, Johnson said. “It was like 4 to 1, roughly, for some sort of parking restrictions.” The LCA is sending those survey results to the city’s transportation and parking commission, Johnson said. 

Not everyone agrees with the temporary parking ban. “I think the temporary bans are unfortunate, both in terms of how they affect residents who only have street parking, and also how unwelcoming they feel,” Kelly Silliman, who has lived on Reservoir Road in Leeds for nine years, wrote in an email to the Gazette. “I think it’s awesome that we have so many beautiful swimming holes in Leeds, and I love that families come to enjoy them.” 

“I feel that in practice, this parking ban, in this instance, only serves to make it harder for people to come to our neighborhood and [is] not particularly safer for anyone,” Karen Carter, a resident of Leeds for 21 years, wrote in a letter to the Department of Public Works director that she shared with the Gazette. Carter measured the section of Main Street outside her house and said even with cars parked on both sides of the street, there’s still 17 feet of space left open.

“Pulling over to let an emergency vehicle might not be possible but isn’t that true for many Northampton streets and wouldn’t that mean that we should have no parking on one side of any street of similar dimensions throughout the city?” she asked in the letter. Narkewicz acknowledged that not all streets of that width in the city have a similar parking restriction, but noted that most streets don’t have a heavy seasonal increase in parking.

Carter and Silliman are two of 23 residents who signed a recent guest column, “A river of welcome,” which advocated for inclusive solutions to addressing trash and noise, such as putting in garbage cans and portable toilets and not calling the police — the city reported 55 calls between May 1 and July 28.

For now, the parking ban is temporary — any long-term parking change would need to go through a legislative process at the City Council, Narkewicz said. In the shorter term, Chartpak has agreed to pick up trash at the site three times each week, according to the city’s statement.

That has helped, Johnson said. “I think it’s been a small improvement.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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