ASHLAND -- In the days following Ashland Main Street’s first Downtown Vision session of 2020, Ashland Source asked its newsletter subscribers for their take on one of the issues business owners had immediately identified as an issue.
Just shy of 40 percent of respondents to a recent downtown business survey prioritized parking as the one major improvement they'd like for Downtown Ashland, according to early results. It’s believed nearly two-thirds of local businesses had filled out the survey at that time.
In an attempt to gauge reader opinion on this, Ashland Source requested feedback the following Sunday from it's newsletter subscribers.
Too much or too little?
If you’d ask reader Raymond Johnson, there’s too little parking in downtown Ashland.
“We need more parking downtown, but closer than what the ones are like at the city lots are,” he said.
Two others agreed. One highlighted a lack of handicapped parking, and the other sees parking as only a significant issue during special events.
“I think parking is sorely lacking. There are lots but they are so far away, especially on Main St. That is not good for handicapped people or bad weather,” one said.
The other used the same term when describing the parking situation: sorely lacking.
“For the most part, there is fairly decent parking for normal work days and shopping.... For special events we are sorely lacking,” this reader said.
Others like Nancy Wasen questioned if parking is any issue at all.
“What is so tough about walking from the huge lot back off of South Street? You would walk further than that from your car into Walmart,” she said.
The distance between the Lot B -- the largest downtown lot -- is a short walk from South and Main Street when pedestrians follow the bridge from the lot and walk through the small park/gathering space along South Street, which is tucked in behind the Downtown Perk Coffee Shop.
That lot has room for 200 cars, according to Ashland Main Street. Further at Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Matt Miller shared there are plans to repave and enhance the look of that parking lot in the coming years.
Another, Ann Miller suggests there is indeed plenty of parking, but enforcement of two hour limits for some parking could help alleviate some concern.
“We really do have a decent amount of not too far parking. There needs to be a time limit for those actually parking in front of the stores. As we get older, it becomes harder to walk long distances from parking to store -- but we all could "give" a little,” Miller said.
To enforce or not to enforce?
Reader, Steve Wilson argued that parking should remain free. Though not opposed to enforcement, he warned about over-enforcement.
“I hope it is free because you can have all the parking in the world, but if you overcharge or give too many tickets, you might as well have no parking because people will stay away from businesses,” Wilson said.
A reader who identified himself as Chip and another anonymous reader expressed a desire to see the two-hour parking limit -- as reflected on current signage -- be enforced.
“Parking on Main Street needs to have the two-hour limit enforced. On South Street as well,” Chip said.”Insist all employees park in lots away from Main Street.”
He went on to highlight a need for more handicapped parking on Main Street and better lighting in and going to and from the lots to “make them more inviting.”
The anonymous submitter pondered the notion of making Main Street one-way with diagonal parking.
“They pressured Chase Bank to move because of no parking. Now look at it with AU in the same space,” the reader said. “If I owned a business I would be concerned about the parking. And the police need to start enforcing the 2 hr parking.”
At a Tuesday, Feb. 4 council meeting, Mayor Miller did share that conversations have taken place with Ashland City Police about bringing back a parking enforcement officer, but it’s not yet clear if that will be implemented.
In the meantime, newsletter subscriber Pat Edwards asked people to compare there walk to the treks shoppers might make in Easton, Ohio.
“Granted, there is limited Main St. parking but whenever I drive through South St. the city lots seem vacant. Ashland folks don't seem to mind parking far at Easton to walk to the shops,” he said.
Reader-generated suggestions and questions
Janet Flood asks city leaders to be cautious in implementing change and to consider what’s worked and what hasn’t elsewhere.
“I watched as Massillon changed their parking to put environmentally friendly parking in, it left the business' with fewer parking spaces and unhappy customers,” she said. “There are only three parking spaces per block and very confusing driving lanes. Please check area towns before you move ahead.”
Anonymously, a different reader asked what could be done to make the existing lots more accessible to the older populations.
“When using the lower lot it limits itself to a younger, more mobile user. Many older customers refuse to hike up the hill to shop downtown due to age/injury that does not qualify as handicapped,” the reader said. “Is a shuttle possible, until say 10:00 p.m. to increase access?”
Another question related to small, private lots.
“Can businesses that have small private parking areas open those to the public after hours or on weekends?” this individual said.
Ashland Source will continue to follow conversation on downtown parking. To submit further questions and comments for our staff to consider, please see below.