It wasn’t that long ago that Market Square was a parking lot downtown. I’ve only heard the stories — by the time I moved to Kingston, the square was being renovated into the stone structure it is today. I have imagined what it must have looked like all those years ago.
Well, it’s not that hard these days.
Take a drive by Market Square at night, or anytime for that matter, when skaters are buzzing around the artificial rink and you’ll see that Market Square has somehow become Park-it Square. The city usually has problems with people parking illegally on the square in the summer and spring. Cars have been towed off the square for being parked illegally and tickets handed out.
The winter? That hasn’t been a problem until this year. The city’s bylaw officers have noticed it as well and started to ticket those caught parking on Market Square. When I was at the rink the other night for a skate, one worker commented to me about how they had never seen anyone park on the square in the winter until this skating season.
This year, snow has been cleared from the King Street side of the square, leaving a nice open space for anyone to jump the curb and pull up right next to the rink. The curb is already raised on the King Street side of the square and there’s no room to place any bollards, similar to the ones along Brock and Market streets.
The prime parking conditions, though, raise two issues. The first issue is public safety. The last thing anyone wants to see is people driving around a busy public space, motoring along sidewalks and entering intersections at pedestrian walkways. (Well, maybe there are people that do want to see it. Frankly, I’m in favour of staying safe.)
Damage to the square is another issue. The farmer’s market bylaw states that vendors have to place cardboard or paper underneath their vehicles to prevent oil from dripping onto the stones that line the square. “Oil or anything leaking from vehicles will damage that surface,” says Kim Leonard, who oversees bylaw enforcement for the city. She says the fines for being caught parking on the square can cost $25. In 2009, six people received such tickets, Leonard says.
Leonard says the city isn’t too pleased with people parking on Market Square and bylaw officers are targeting anyone caught leaving their vehicle by the rink. However, with an entire city to cover and dozens of bylaws to enforce, not everyone parking on Market Square is going to get caught. Maybe the city needs a better system to deter illegal parking on Market Square. How does a $500 sound?
But there’s one other question that still nags at me: If you’re going to use your legs to propel you around the rink, why not use them to walk from a legal parking space to eliminate the opportunity for harm to your fellow Kingstonians, or harm to the square itself and the repair bill that taxpayers will have to pick up? The potential for someone getting injured seems too high of a price to pay to save a few dollars on parking, or a minute of walking.