Parking by Prairie Knoll Park debated

A request from the Andover football and lacrosse youth associations to open up parking on the north side of 146th Lane south of Prairie Knoll Park was denied.

The Andover City Council was unanimous in this decision at its Aug. 8 meeting after hearing both sides of the argument.

The sports associations stressed that some parents are parking on the higher speed Prairie Road. The general consensus of the council, although there was some debate, is that there is enough parking in the two existing lots and the associations must spread the word about available parking in the north lot.

Mayor Mike Gamache used to run the Andover Athletic Association so he understands the challenge volunteer sports association leaders have in trying to get a large group of parents to go in the same direction. He commended the work these volunteer leaders do.

Nevertheless, the mayor feels there are enough legal parking spots in the north lot that people can go to with a little more effort on everyone’s part. This includes the youth sports associations spreading the word inside and outside the community about the legal parking options and the city requesting the sheriff’s office ticket people who are parked illegally.

“It’s a little longer walk. Their kids are exercising, so they could probably use a little exercising themselves,” Gamache said.

Twila Hauck is a volunteer board member for both the Andover Football Association and Andover Area Lacrosse Association, so she is frequently at Prairie Knoll Park. Hauck told the council she tells people about the north parking lot.

However, some people still illegally park on 146th Lane even if there are no parking signs. She said she has called the police when she sees people parked illegally. Some just choose to park on Prairie Road, which has a 50 mph speed limit, but does allow parking.

“It’s not that I don’t want to enforce the rules,” Hauck said. “I just want to make it easier for people to have a place to park so they’re not parking on Prairie Road.”

Gary Aus lives on 146th Lane and can attest to people parking illegally. He told a story of how one person was on his lawn and said they could park there because there is a game.

According to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office records, deputies responded to parking complaints on six separate dates from June 2010 through the end of July this year. There were three citations issued on both June 22, 2010 and Sept. 26, 2010. There was a call on Oct. 25, 2011 about multiple vehicles parking in the no parking zone, but vehicles were gone by the time deputies got there. Most recently, somebody got a warning on July 11 and somebody was cited July 18.

“If we were out in Minneapolis or St. Paul, I guarantee you that you would be there maybe 30 seconds and you’d have a chalk mark on your tire and you’d have a ticket flapping on your windshield wiper.”

Aus believes games are scheduled too close together, which causes congestion when people are coming and going. Hauck said they schedule games to start at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on weeknights on each of the two fields.

“If we do anything later than that or put an hour gap in between games, we have fourth-graders out until at 11 o’clock at night,” Hauck said.

Councilmember Julie Trude believes the modern family are why there are more vehicles. Parents have different schedules and some have kids in multiple sports on the same night, so they do not always arrive at Prairie Knoll Park at the same time. Hauck added that some players will have grandparents and other relatives in attendance, so you could get a few cars just for one kid.

The city has not allowed parking on 146th Lane since October 2004. It expanded the north parking lot in 2007, and Berkowitz said it would be difficult to make it bigger due to the gas line that is east of the lot.

Trude said the north lot is difficult to see from the south lot at Prairie Knoll Park, and she has not seen signs directing people to the north lot. Hauck said there is a sign at the entrance of the south lot directing overflow traffic to the north lot, but the sign is small.

Gamache not only opposed parking on 146th Lane. He also does not like seeing parents hauling chairs and pushing baby strollers trying to cross Prairie Road. He raised the idea of disallowing parking on Prairie Road as well.

Although Councilmember Sheri Bukkila feels similar about Prairie Road not being the best spot to park, she recommended the city not take away this parking option. Due to the sports associations making the initial petition for parking on the north side of 146th Lane, she did not feel the council should also take away Prairie Road parking. She commented that she has encouraged people to bring forward issues and to not be afraid that more will be taken away if they come before the council.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]