EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE) – Downtown El Dorado is a hot spot bustling with activity over the last few years and people are now anxious to flock to the heart of the city.
From fine dining, shopping and recently entertainment, the attractions are bringing a lot of traffic.
But some drivers say they are facing a bigger issue, the parking. Signs posted on the sidewalks spell it out.
They say you’re welcome to park in some 200 marked spots for three hours, but after that, there are consequences.
And the city’s parking attendant makes sure the rules aren’t broken.
“It’s usually pretty easy to find parking, just the time restriction can make it kind of difficult,” says Courtney Howard, a downtown employee.
Drivers claim the hard part is understanding the system, but we went straight to the source to find out how it’s done.
The parking attendant didn’t want to be on camera but was willing to let us know her method.
“I go out about 9:30, 10 and mark the tire,” she said. “I mark at the 6 o’clock and straight down and then the road so I have the perfect line. When I finish the route, I look at the time, and I come back three hours from that time and start checking tires, and when they are lined up, that’s when they get a ticket because I know they have not moved.”
But to some, the method is still not clear-cut.
“Even if someone has come downtown, gotten a mark, then they leave, and then they come back, and they park somewhere else, she marks them again and counts that as their three hours, even though they haven’t parked within that same spot for three hours, which is definitely unfair,” adds Howard.
And some say they are slapped with a $10 ticket on their windshield without breaking the law.
“We have an older customer, and she comes once a week for a massage and then she gets her hair done at one of the salons, and she looks to eat lunch, and she can’t park three or four blocks away and, so it really can be hard on her because she has to make sure she keeps an eye on the time,” Howard continues.
“Ten dollar tickets are more than minimum wage, so if I get a $10 ticket one day, that’s taking away an hour of my pay just to pay that,” says a downtown visitor.
Workers downtown say it’s hard to find reasonable parking, and unloading into a store is a whole different issue. Some claim they’ve been penalized for that.
Mayor Frank Hash says they’ve tried everything in the past and insists that downtown merchants have requested this.
“Over the years, what’s proven the most agreeable solution is three-hour total parking downtown because the little stores downtown are competing with the big box stores and they need to have the convenience of parking, customers parking near their store,” says Hash.
Some agree that this is the best way.
“I’ve been here since 1981,” says Brenda Miller, business owner. “I’ve had a business on the square, and they’ve had everything from parking meters to just free parking all around the square, and this probably works as well as anything. It would be nice if we had some places where we could rent parking spaces to park, but most of those are privately owned now, and there’s just not much of a place to rent spaces, but there are enough places off the square for those of us who work downtown that employees don’t have to take up three hour parking.”
“Our biggest violators are folks who actually work down there,” continues Hash. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have adequate parking for your customers, and yet you park where your customers have to park. One block off, it’s free parking all day long unless you are so physically unable to walk a block, you’re going to have a problem.”
The mayor says they have tried almost everything under the sun, but for those who got a ticket, they say officials preach “shop local” but penalize drivers who come downtown to do it.
For now, it appears the three-hour limit is here to stay unless the mayor and others come up with another solution.