From Market to Park-it

Springer Market Square, Market Square skating rink, Kingston ice rink, Kingston, OntarioIt 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.

7 thoughts on “From Market to Park-it

  • This parking issue really bothers me. As a market vendor I find it very frustrating to see people parking on the square. Like you mention in this article we are constantly reminded to leave cardboard under our vehicles to keep leaks from ruining the square. We are also not permitted to park on the square unless we are in our own designated spots, this means we can’t park in empty spaces at the back of the market.

    It is frustrating seeing all these people parking on the square. The most frustrating thing to happen to me this year was for some ignorant ‘hockey dad’ to pull up in his hulking SUV and park it on the square DURING the market. A vendor had gone home for the day, leaving an empty space in the market and this man thought it was his right to drive his monster-truck sized SUV into the square. A few vendors went over to tell him he couldn’t park there and he just told them off and went off to skate on his own. City hall was then notified, but nothing happened and this man was allowed to keep his truck there. What do you think happened next? Another vendor left for the day, space was opened up and another vehicle parked to go skating.

    It was frustrating to put up with the attitude of this man, strolling around in his parent-issue rep hockey outfit, but it also is not safe. Vendors are taking down tents, moving boxes and crates, adults, children, and seniors are walking between stalls, and then ignorant people hop up onto the curb acting as though anyone in the square is an inconvenience to them.

    The city needs to put a stop to this illegal parking now or it will continue forever. Permanent obstructions can’t be placed here to block parking, but why not a simple solution? Wooden saw horses. They are laying around all over the city hall area. Why not drag some of them along the curb on King St so people can’t park here? This would be a good temporary solution, they could be moved to clear snow, and if market vendors want to set up they can be easily slid out of the way. It shouldn’t take the city this long to figure out how to keep people from parking on the square.

    • I have a friend who is a vendor during the summer months, and she was also frustrated with news of this issue. She echoed Andy's concerns in that vendors are strictly scrutinized to abide by the rules, or else they face fines. I can accept the fact that a few people might mistakenly park on the Square once in a while, but the problem has been ongoing since the start of this skating season. I would rather not see Market Square surrounded by wooden barriers, as they would make things look unsightly. I think a few signs on the back side of the bleachers are a better option. That, combined with more frequent patrols/tickets from By-Law Enforcement Officers should clear things up.

  • Gak…have to shamefully admit that my family is also guilty of doing this, just once. It was Christmas afternoon and a closer parking option is better for our little ones who get totally tuckered with the skate. Everyone else was doing it, hadn’t thought about damage to the square…that was, until a minivan two cars over from us hit a lamp post trying to back out.

    Apologies, Market Square. Won’t happen again!

  • I like the saw horse idea. What about a sign to back it up? That’s what people are looking for when they park and if there isn’t one, what’s to stop them from parking there? I would hope Kingstonians would know not to, but tourists might not.

    It would be a real shame if that hockey dad’s SUV got scratched as a vendor tried to squeeze by with a table or something. ;)

  • Saw horses are an option, but given the amount of money that’s been laid out for the facility aready, the city’s not going to go for that.

    I’d go for the big parking fines. Call it “being an arse in public” or something. Name and shame, perhaps. We don’t do enough of that any more. It’s a public square, why not bring back the stocks? ;-)

  • I’m sure a few of our local tomato producers would gladly donate at the end of their day on the square :P

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