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Parking conflicts in the Heritage Hill neighborhood

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GRCC students' parking habits in the Heritage Hill area have raised issues with residents.

GRCC students' parking habits in the Heritage Hill area have raised issues with residents. /Jef Nickerson

Traffic confusion on the streets of the Heritage Hill neighborhood, located in downtown Grand Rapids, is at an all time high. Since the beginning of last September, the neighborhood's compacted, narrow streets have become congested. From early Monday morning to late Thursday evening, this situation persists. Why is this happening?

The answer is simple, a new semester of classes have begun at the Grand Rapids Community College. The college campus is located at the very edge of the Heritage Hill neighborhood. This leads many students to forgo paying for parking in the college ramps and instead use the convenient, free-of-charge neighborhood streets. This causes many problems with residential parking in the neighborhood and has made several residents unhappy.

“I dread when the fall classes start back up again. All those kids parking on the streets make it unsafe for me while I’m driving,” said Barbara Stoutjesdyk, a resident of Heritage Hill for four years. “They don’t follow the parking laws. They park in no parking zones and when they are issued tickets for their infractions they throw them on the ground. I’m constantly cleaning up after these kids' messy behavior.”

While she clearly does not enjoy the current situation and wishes for a solution to the problem, she said she realizes there is a limited amount of campus parking. In addition she agreed that most college students, if given the choice, are going to opt for free parking instead of paying for it.

Grand Rapids Community College provides their students with two parking ramps and one lot to park in while class hours are in session. According to the GRCC Student Life - Parking Web site, the college charges $1 for half an hour or $9 for the entire day. Students can get a discount if they swipe their student ID, the Raider Card, each time they go in or out of the parking areas. With a Raider Card, the final charge for a student will be $2.50 for a whole day. With or without the discount, this method is costly and can add up to hundreds of dollars each semester. For many students, this simply is not a feasible option.

Jon Rozeboom is a students who parks in the Heritage Hill neighborhood. He said he does this because it is not cost efficient for him to park in the ramps. He doesn’t believe that the students parking in the neighborhood are clogging the streets, and since reported injuries and accidents are not occurring on a regular basis, the GRCC students should be allowed to continue to park there. He also acknowledged some negative effects.

“If students were not allowed to park in Heritage Hill, during the winter months there would not be as much compacted ice on the sidewalks, and a lesser amount of trash would litter the lawns of residents during the spring and fall seasons,” he said.

During the fall and winter semesters, this issue of parking becomes a matter for concern. Eventually the snow melts, winter classes end, students go home and summer returns. Then the situation dies slowly away, only to be revived when the leaves start turning brown once more. So what is a possible remedy for the situation?

One potential solution is to create new DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle) lots devoted entirely to fulfilling college students parking needs. This would help out students from both GRCC and the downtown Grand Valley State University campuses. As of right now, parking in a DASH lot costs only a few dollars less than parking in the campus ramps. If there were new lots created and more parking spaces made available, the cost of parking in the DASH lots and on campus could possibly go down. This would ultimately benefit both students and the residents of Heritage Hill.

This is an important issue and one that should be considered by those in charge of college parking and public parking. People having feelings of dissatisfaction about the neighborhood they live in is not conducive to a happy populace.

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As a Heritage Hill resident with no off street parking, I certainly understand the parking situation. Nothing frosts me more than coming home and having "my" spot gone. I also understand that for many the cost of parking is always going to make parking in the neighborhood the only choice. I like your Dash solution.

In response to the student's comment about the sidewalks - just a reminder that sidewalks only get compacted ice if residents don't shovel. Whether you own or rent, take the time to help out your neighbors and visitors by doing your part.