A new year; student parking problems persist

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A new year; student parking problems persist

Nick Clark, Writer

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Parking is a problem everywhere, but the worst of it all is student parking. Student parking has been a recurring issue at BFA because there is no on-campus student parking.

A recent development has made student parking even more difficult than in the past.

“The Puddle” is a sort of vacant lot full of potholes, located down near the MRUSD Office, off of Stebbins Street, not too far from the BFA campus.

The new development is that “The Puddle” has been closed to all parking.  This means that the 15 to 20 students who used it every day as a parking option now are cruising the St. Albans streets looking for a new place to park.

According to Ashley Labelle’s 2016 Mercury article “Student parking: the call for action,” https://bfamercury.org/2104/news/student-parking-the-call-for-action/, “sixty-three empty spots is what students see, on average, when they walk in between buildings.”  As an inquiring journalist seeking facts, Labelle went and counted the empty spots on a number of different days to arrive at this figure.

The student perception has not changed much since last year. “There are easily 8-10 parking spots open per day, and I just think it is ridiculous that BFA is probably one of the only schools that does not offer student parking in Vermont,” Andrew Billings (‘18) said.

BFA students have to park off-campus and that means they have to get up very early to get a spot in front of the school. Otherwise, students have to park further away, which can be awful in weather like snow, sleet, rain, and even scorching heat.

Other northern Vermont schools such as Richford, CVU, and Enosburg offer student on-campus parking. The teachers and students at these schools share student and teacher parking.  Their situations are slightly different than BFA, however, because they are not right in the middle of a city.

Many solutions have been thought of but not all of them can be implemented due to BFA’s decreasing budget. Billings had his own idea about what should be done, but like other ideas it will probably never actually be used.

“My solution is that the school should buy Hometown Beverage, level it, and create a parking area just for the students of BFA,” Billing said. Billings also thought they could try and create at least 15 parking spots once Hometown was demolished.

This idea may sound easy, but the school does not have that kind of money and would probably not use taxpayer’s money just to create parking for students.

Another option always brought up by teachers and other school administrators is that students can park at the Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center and get bussed to school. Not many students at BFA actually take this opportunity. The bus leaves the Complex at 7:15 AM.

“Making the students go to the Complex is unrealistic, especially for those who don’t live in St. Albans, because it is a few more miles from the school. This means more gas money and not every student has the money for gas,” Billings said.

Billings suggested that students who get dropped off by their parents or don’t have jobs to pay for their gas money certainly get affected by the distance between the Complex and BFA.

The other major option for student parking has been “The Puddle,” as mentioned above.

The Puddle is owned by the New England Central Railroad, and they recently began reconstruction this summer. This new construction makes it so there will be no space for students to park there, ever.  “The construction is to be completed to create new parking spaces, but these spaces will not be open to the public,” Martin Manahan, Director of Operations and Business Development for St. Albans, said.

One other aspect of the student parking puzzle is that there have been students who park on St. Albans City streets, and some have acted in rude and disrespectful ways.

However, these problems have been decreasing over the last couple years, and students have been smart when parking and have not been creating situations that could be harmful to themselves or the school.

“Students have done a much better job over the last two years, parking respectfully and being good neighbors to the people who live in the City,” Geoff Lyons, BFA Assistant Principal for Facilities, said.

BFA is trying to partner with the local church known as St. Mary’s,  because it is right behind the school and offers a lot of open parking space for teachers and students.

“If we can partner with them that would greatly benefit the school as a whole, give us more time and help the overall problem,” Lyons said.

BFA staff and St. Mary’s representatives are in contact with each other right now, and they hope to have a final decision made by the end of the year.

Student parking is slowly becoming better, but it still has its problems. Teachers can come and go during the day but still get their official on-campus parking spots saved, whereas if students leave their spots on City streets, they are subject to not having a spot to return to.

“Some teachers carpool, yes, but they still reserve the right to their own parking spot for when they do drive,” Lyons said.

The best option according to some is the brand new parking garage on Lake Street, but you have to pay to park there, and few students have the money to pay to park there.

Teachers have the option to park in the parking garage since they can afford to park there, especially if they carpool. This would open up the spots on campus for students to park at and could make the overall parking situation better.

The goal here is to try and make parking better for the teachers and the students, so why can’t everyone work together in order to make it better?  As the teaching staff gets smaller, there are more and more empty spots that could be utilized by students, to make everyone’s life just a little bit easier.