By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — The city of Marshfield approved removing several of its parking restrictions in the downtown area. The changes were the results of a study completed by the Downtown Parking Team, a group assembled last year to analyze the downtown area’s parking situations on streets and in city lots.
One of the group’s recommendations was to create a prorated payment plan for those wishing to use city lots in which a permit is required. In addition, permit requirements in the Milwaukee and Omaha lots would be removed.
“The thing that we’d talked about before is if someone wants to get a permit for parking but they’re told, ‘Well, it’s $155 for the whole year,’” explained City Administrator Steve Barg. “‘Well, I only want it from May through December,’ and there is no option for that, so we’ll be looking at dividing that out based upon the 12 months and only assessing for the period that they want it to the balance of the calendar year.”
The Parking Team also recommended adjusting on-street parking regulations, focusing on side streets east of Maple Avenue and west of Chestnut Avenue as well as First Street in front of the Marshfield Police Department. The team pinpointed over 20 areas where parking restrictions could be adjusted or removed completely.
“They talked about everything, as radical ideas as getting rid of permit parking entirely to any number of other things,” said Barg. “The thought was, ‘Let’s try this. Let’s try to free up Omaha and Milwaukee. Do a PR blitz … to try and tell people where there is available parking in those lots, on some of the side streets.’
“‘Hey, do you want to come and go downtown to eat and get your hair cut? You’re going to be down there for a while. You’re concerned about the 90 minute parking and getting a ticket. Well, here are your options to park much longer than that, and it would be totally fine.’
“We will meet again in six months or maybe a little more than that — probably late fall of this year or over the winter — and say, ‘Did it make a difference? Did we see parking behavior change? Did we see use of Omaha and Milwaukee lots that’s greater? Did we see people using the side streets west of Chestnut and east of Maple? Are there still flaws in this whole system?’
“We started out by trying to do something with the idea that we could go farther if need be, hoping that we don’t, and I guess we will only know in six months or more whether or not these make an impact.”
The changes to downtown parking were supported by the Board of Public Works and were approved by the common council May 9. The changes in on-street parking will go into effect on June 1, and the changes to the Omaha and Milwaukee lots take effect June 15.