Actions will be taken to relieve overcrowding and parking issues

by Dennis Rahm; LCN photos taken late-morning at Lakeside Park on Wednesday, 7-29-20

While ultimately deciding not to close parks on weekends, the Chelan City Council took steps at their Tuesday night meeting that they hope will lessen the negative impact of overcrowded city parks on busy weekends. The City will also implement changes that are intended to reduce parking issues along Highway 97-A near Lakeside Park and in neighborhoods close to Don Morse Park.

Late last week, Chelan Mayor Bob Goedde floated the idea of weekend park closures to help reduce overcrowding and comply with COVID related social distancing guidelines. That statement generated a considerable amount of community feedback, and led to a lengthy discussion of well over an hour at last night’s council meeting. More than 30 letters from community members were submitted on the topic, and council members also received a significant amount of in-person feedback on the issue.

While there were certainly many in the community who were in favor of weekend park closures, the Council came to the consensus to leave the parks open, but to implement a plan that will address overcrowding and parking issues.

Mayor Goedde tells LakeChelanNow he’s pleased with the community and council input, and felt strongly that something needed to be done.

The high level of community interest resulted in more than 200 people listening to the livestream audio of last night’s meeting.

Details of the City response to the situation are being developed, with the hopes of having a plan in place by the second week of August. The city will give consideration to contracting with a private security firm, possibly implementing a park entrance fee for non-residents, limiting entrance once the parking lots are full, prohibiting the use of tents or awnings that have floors, and possibly changing a city ordinance that will make the possession of alcohol in the parks a criminal offense, as opposed to a civil offense as it is now. Increased fines for parking violations, as well as an increase in parking fees at the parks, were approved and will be implemented later this summer.

City Manager Wade Farris will work with Parks Director Paul Horne, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department and other City staff to develop the plan.

Farris said the goal is to have a plan ready for the Council to consider by the end of this week, in order to begin implementing changes by the second weekend of August.

If you would like to hear the lengthy discussion about parks and parking, listen below.