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Wilderness Park parking expansion will be a long road

The city will continue moving forward with the expansion of a north parking lot at the Claremont Hills Parking Lot, but will be taking its time in implementing further parking details.

Tuesday, the Claremont City Council rejected a proposed plan that would add additional paid parking spaces on the west side of Mills Avenue between Mt. Baldy Road and Pomello Drive. Instead the council will focus on already-approved parking lot expansion plans along with a proposed plan to add a second entrance to the park, which the council will review at its first meeting in June.

“As long as we start moving in the right direction, as long as we get that upper parking lot at least built...it’s a step in the right direction,” said Mayor Larry Schroeder. “This is a process, and even after we think we have a 100 percent answer we will have to monitor this [parking and traffic situation] on a continual basis.”

The unanimous decision was reached after a lengthy back-and-forth discussion centered on concerns regarding traffic and pedestrian safety and whether or not the proposed spots on Mills Avenue would solve the problem, or just create more trouble.

The proposal was brought before council following a request at the March 27 council meeting. The proposal suggested that instead of having cars park off the main road on Mills, as they currently do, 45 diagonal spaces be added. The rest of the street would be restricted.

Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik noted that the proposal would reduce the southbound travel lane from 14 feet to 12 feet, “still very adequate for the amount of traffic in the area,” and would “give us the room to get the cars off of the road and also provide the pedestrian pathway on the west side.”

Though City Engineer Craig Bradshaw assured council that the area would be “an ideal site” for the diagonal parking spaces without foreseeable problems, and that a walkway would be added to the street for pedestrians, many residents did not feel comfortable with the positioning of the spots on an already narrow and dangerously busy street.

“I believe there is a substantial city liability on this,” said Claremont resident Ludd Trozpek, addressing the council during public comment. “Somebody is going to get killed, and their blood is going to be on your hands when that happens.”

Mr. Trozpek also voiced concern with the narrowness of the spaces themselves and accessibility to the sidewalk. Several others agreed with his fear for pedestrian safety, noting the unpredictability of drivers regardless of signage or traffic signals.

“[Wilderness Park users] are going to do what they want to do whether it’s legal or not,” said Nora Vignoli.

The council shared residents’ concerns, deciding to abandon the proposed plan, and recommended that the Community and Human Services Commission take a look at the impact of the capacity and popularity of the park at a later time.

Councilmember Sam Pedroza felt that building a second entrance to the park, rather than building even more parking spaces, would help to alleviate some of the concerns. The council recommended that the Community and Human Services Commission take a look at the impact of the popularity of the park at a later time.

In agreement with Mr. Pedroza, the council recommended moving forward with addressing the alternate entrance in June, and holding off on approving further parking expansions. In the meantime, the council recognized the difficulties and the inability to fully address all the concerns sparked by the Wilderness Park and its increased popularity among residents and nonresidents alike.

“At this point, I’m still in favor of the upper lot. I think it’s important in favor of onsite parking,” said Councilmember Corey Calaycay. “I’d sooner see us take this money and put it toward the other aspect of this, the alternative entrance that Councilmember Pedroza has talked about.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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