Some signs of change for Bjune parking

Shiny new parking signs reserving most of Bjune Drive for boat trailers on weekends caused a stir among waterfront users when they were installed recently.

Soon new parking regulations also will be rolled out on Winslow Way west of Madison Avenue.

The city says the new signs along Bjune don’t represent a change in policy, but simply improve the existing parking regulations.

The crux of the issue is an agreement entered into by the city in 1989. That year the Recreation and Conservation Office awarded Winslow a grant to construct a boat ramp at Waterfront Park. A stipulation of the grant required the city to reserve “15 spaces of a standard size to accommodate car/trailer parallel parking for boat ramp users, along the entire length of Brien and the eastern portion of Bjune Drive.”

The spots were supposed to be reserved on weekends and holidays, with trailer parking allowed as space permitted on weekdays.

After the agreement was entered, a street reorganization turned the original Brien Drive into Bjune, and relegated Brien to a strip of street below the Senior Center and playground.

Space for 15 car-and-trailer combinations was plotted out along Bjune. On weekends the reserved spaces block off about 60 regular parking stalls, including a swath of diagonal stalls above the Senior Center and Commons, and a strip of parallel parking spaces closer to Madison Avenue.

On weekdays, two-hour parking is allowed on the street and parking is prohibited early on Saturday mornings for street sweeping.

Harbormaster Tami Allen, who requested the sign update, said the original signs regulating Bjune were too vague, and regulating the reserved boat trailer parking was difficult. The new signs will allow for more aggressive enforcement.

First the city is working to remind Bjune parking users, including shoppers, park users and participants in the Chamber of Commerce’s permit program, about the neglected policy.

“Education is the first step,” Allen said. “We’ll work our way into it.”

One downtown user who has adamantly opposed the Bjune regulations is Mike Suraci, a resident of adjoining Shannon Drive.

He disputes that there is enough demand for trailer parking to legitimize the displacement of more than 50 cars, especially outside of the summer boating season.

“This is not year round,” Suraci said. “There’s no one boating today. If it rains tomorrow there will be no one boating then either.”

He said the city should try to re-negotiate its agreement with the Recreation and Conservation Office to lessen the impact of trailer parking on other downtown users.

Suraci said he is also upset that the street-sweeping hours are enforced even on Saturdays when no work is done.

Public Works Director Randy Witt said the frequency of street-sweeping work depends on the need, and is done with more regularity in the fall when leaves are dropping. Whether cars are ticketed during the sweeping hours is left at the discretion of parking enforcement officers, he said.

Phil Hall, a Bainbridge boater who uses the Waterfront Park boat ramp frequently, said there is no shortage of demand for trailer parking, especially in the summer.

“You have to get down there at 4:30 in the morning to get a place that’s close to the park,” he said.

Hall said he was pleased that there will be stricter enforcement of reserved trailer parking on Bjune but would like the city to go farther in facilitating boaters at Waterfront Park.

He hopes there will be tighter regulation of the parking lot by the ramp, and believes trailers should be exempted from the two-hour parking limitation on Bjune, which he said makes boating on weekdays difficult.

There are about 900 boat trailers registered to Bainbridge addresses.

Last week the city also announced changes to parking regulations for the western end of Winslow Way.

Beginning Thursday, parking on the north side of Winslow Way between Finch Place and Grow Avenue will be limited to two hours during the daytime to prevent commuter parking in retail areas.

Parking on the south side of Winslow Way in the same area will be prohibited to provide for safe pedestrian travel and because portions of the area are too narrow for on-street parking.

For information on parking changes, contact Public Works at 842-2016.

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