Friday, October 19, 2018

City Council, October 22nd - Brown Road Park

Council meets on Monday, and the plastic bag ordinance will lead the headlines and interest.

Here, the most interesting item is the proposed master plan for the new Brown Road Park.

Crosswalk and on-street parking at Brown Road Park
Since it will be a neighborhood park, it should be easy to walk and bike to, and it's appropriate not to devote a large space for car storage, and the City's 2013 Parks Master Plan recommends only on-street parking for neighborhood parks. (For larger parks that are expected to draw from a larger area, the City does sometimes recommend off-street parking.)

Additionally, the best place for an interior parking lot would impact a wetland area.

For these reasons the preferred alternative is a widening in Brown Road with a pocket for on-street parking. (There's no striping plan, but it looks like parallel stalls. Some thought should be given to a bus stop also.) This offers better visibility for "eyes and ears" on park activity, at least on the streetside edge, as well as traffic calming from the median and crosswalk refuge.

This seems like a good plan, and is similar to what has been done at Bryan Johnston and Hood View parks.

The parking area, sidewalks, and crosswalk median are specifically called out as pieces in a separate transportation project rather than any parks project. I have not followed progress on all the Brown Road transportation projects, but I don't think they are all done yet, and if the City has lined things up right, it should be possible to fold this into one of the Brown Road phases, and not have to do anything twice. (I wish the Staff Report and Master Plan was a little more detailed on aligning the streets and parks projects.)

Because the park itself is a kind of cul-de-sac, wholly enclosed by back yards on the east end, no additional path connectivity is possible. There's a nice loop, but just the single street connection at Brown Road. Hopefully that won't be a problem. Corner lots, like with the recent purchase at Battle Creek and Reed Roads, are better. (See this discussion of edges at Bryan Johnston, Hood View, and a few other parks and this discussion of edges at Orchard Heights and Bush parks. The City can't always pick and choose its lots for park land, but we may not give adequate attention to perimeters and edges.)

And as a footnote, the Safe Routes Partnership has recently widened their scope a little, and they are talking a lot about connections to parks now. They just published a "Safe Routes to Parks Walk Audit Toolkit" and that might be worth a look, especially as a focus for neighborhood advocacy and the new "Safer Crossings" committee.

Access only off Brown Road
In other matters purchasing the "goat trail" connecting the Croisan trail and behind Belcrest Cemetery is delayed and the City's negotiated an extension on the purchase agreement.

The City also proposes to extend the Enterprise Zone property tax abatement for a firm from three years to five years. The Staff Report doesn't say anything about how much this costs the City, only that "the firm intends to expand operations at the Salem facility by investing $5.6 million in equipment and increasing the number of employees from 69 to 79," so of course it must be a wonderful thing. There is no way to evaluate how much of a good investment this might be. The reporting on these is so cavalier.

The City and Employees also came to an agreement for a three year contract.

And, of course, the plastic bag ordinance, which will be the main event for most people.

Addendum, Sunday the 21st

Here's a picture of Brown Road at the park site.

Park site at right, via Streetview


Susann Kaltwasser said...

When we designed Weathers Street Park it too was on a busy mostly residential street. While not a busy as Brown Road, it has a lot of local and business traffic because it is next to a retirement home. We asked for a few off street parking spaces, including two for handicapped parking, because while there is on street parking, we recognized that families with small children need a safe place to get in and out of the car.

The design standard is to have a park service an area within 6 blocks. Thats a long ways to push a carriage or lug a picnic basket along a busy street.

At Weathers Park the majority of people walk to the park. It is very heavily used for a neighborhood park, because there are several apartment complexes nearby. But still there is a need for some people to drive to the park. Usually we see all the parking slots filled every weekend as well as many cars parked on the street. In fact there are so many cars that we are going to have to work with the City on sight distances at intersections.

The problem with Brown Road is that in addition to being very busy and higher speeds, once the road improvements are made there will be bike lanes on the street that will prohibit on street parking.

Weathers park is only 4 acres and we still had room for off street parking. If you want people to use a park you have to accommodate the reality that some people will need to drive and park nearby. The limited spaces provided in the one alternative are so limited that my guess is that it will significantly reduce the appeal (use) of this park as a destination.

Frankly, I think Brown Road Park needs both the on-street turn out parking and on-site parking.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Walking six blocks to the park for a picnic is what the Radio Flyer Wagon is for!

If we have to structure development patterns on a six block radius to accommodate a default choice for a car trip, we will never reach our climate goals or our road safety goals.

Sadly, this is autoism in a nutshell, and we have to figure out ways to get past it.

We cannot continue with an auto trip as the mobility of first resort for a trip of six blocks or less.

As for ADA requirements, it's appropriate of course for a designated stall (or whatever the right number is).

Re Brown Road: You say "The problem with Brown Road is that in addition to being very busy and higher speeds, once the road improvements are made there will be bike lanes on the street that will prohibit on street parking."

The crosswalk median should operate to slow traffic meaningfully.

As for parking, I take it you count the graveled margins as "parking" that will be lost? That looks like a drainage ditch along the park edge, so that's not really available. But maybe the other side by the bus stop is. Streetview doesn't show many people parking on either side, however. That's not proof, but it is a data point suggesting there's not a high demand for on-street parking here.

In any case, as a general thing, we should not try to blame bike lanes for any "loss" of car storage area.

(Edit: Also added photo of Brown Road to aid in discussion.)