Friday, April 10, 2009

Preventative Parking Pays

Somebody is going to get hurt.

Note the lack of “may” or “might” or “could” in that sentence. It probably has already happened, though I’ve not heard any specifics. But without a doubt, if we don’t do something, sooner or later someone – most likely a small child – is going to come to harm.

The situation I’m talking about appears every Saturday at Frisco’s Warren Sports Complex. An access road runs from the entrance along Rogers Road over to El Dorado Parkway. On the left are multi-purpose fields that accommodate soccer games in the spring and football games in the fall. On the right: the unimproved expanse of dirt (the grass is long dead) that becomes prime parking for hundreds of cars every weekend. A few years ago, the City acknowledged what had already become fact and put in a couple of ramps up the curb, so cars could stop dragging their mufflers across the concrete.

The source of the problem is twofold. First, parents park their cars right up to the curb, some even poking out into the street. This being Frisco, Texas, we’re not talking about sub-compacts, either. No, this lot is full of the hulking behemoths that make up a large proportion of our motorized population; vehicles more than large enough to totally hide a 7-year-old soccer player dashing to join her team before kickoff. Vigilant drivers who comply with the 15 mile-per-hour speed limit are likely to spot such hazards. But that leads to the second problem. They don’t comply. I’ve seen way to many parents – and sadly most of them ARE parents – pushing the limit to make sure their little Meagan or Austin gets to the game on time. And I’m boggled by the number of drivers careening down that path with a cell phone glued to their ears. This weekend, I caught sight of one mother holding the phone against her shoulder, while reaching into the back seat to do who-knows-what.

This, dear readers, is a calamity waiting to happen.

There are several remedies which could help, and the City’s Parks and Recreation department is considering some of them. The idea of paving that field and putting in permanent parking is one option. However, this would lock up an area that might be used for additional facilities in the future. The cost of putting in a paved lot, just to rip it up again in a couple of years is not palatable in a time when the city is facing a budget shortfall. Other suggestions revolve around changing how those fields are used, perhaps assigning older children to those fields to reduce the likelihood of a younger child running out. Other considerations might be speed bumps and dedicated sidewalks to focus the crossing families into clearly identified areas. My suggestion for a quick, low-cost remedy is to erect fences set back from the curb to allow some space between the traffic flow and the parked vehicles.

As for the drivers, I’d like to see the Frisco police department step up their enforcement along that stretch during game days. It’s amazing the effect that a patrol car or even an officer standing along the road side can have on the behavior of drivers. We don’t currently have a city ordinance banning the use of phones while driving in our city parks (maybe we should?), but I’m betting the old “reckless driving” statute could be applied to the aforementioned soccer mom.

But I’m never one to sit around waiting for government to solve our problems. What can you and I do to help ensure the safety of our young athletes? I’m glad you asked. First of all, if you’re one of the parents coming to Warren for a game, try parking your car back from the curb a bit. Better yet, drive a little further and park in the existing lot near the pavilion. You may have to walk a bit further, but isn’t getting exercise one of the reasons you’re at the park in the first place?!? Next, SLOW DOWN. The speed limit is 15 mph, but even that might be too fast if there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic crossing the road. And go ahead and stop to let those people cross. A little courtesy may deter someone from risking the mad dash. Finally, hang up the damn phone. I promise, there is nothing so important that it can’t wait till you park your car.

If you’ve lived in Frisco for any amount of time, and you have kids, chances are you’ve spent some time at Warren Sports Complex. It’s a great facility and one we can all be proud of. But sometimes things can be a victim of their own success. Let’s all slow down, take some extra time and help prevent a very preventable tragedy. And let’s do it BEFORE someone gets hurt.

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