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Better parking enforcement leads to more safety near BSU

Bemidji city officials are contemplating a variety of options to address parking issues near Bemidji State University. Shown above, an apartment with a two-car garage has five vehicles. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Al Yarnott was going through the alley behind his house on Calihan Avenue when he was nearly involved in a bad accident some years ago.

He blames that near-miss partially on the cars parked too close to the alleyway, blocking his view.

Streets near the Bemidji State University campus are still lined with cars, but neighbors and city officials say more people are following the parking rules this semester, making the neighborhood safer.

That’s thanks to better labeled curbs and more efficient enforcement of parking laws. Those changes come after city council debate this summer over how to deal with parking issues near campus.

The city council had considered permit parking for residents to alleviate congestion and other issues like people parking too close to street corners, driveways and alleys. But that plan was scrapped in favor of repainting curbs leading to alleys and intersections and erecting more signs to indicate where parking is allowed.

Police chief Mike Mastin said his two part-time parking officers have been patrolling the area more efficiently and thinking about how to time their routes.

“I think we’ve had a significant impact in that area,” he said.

Mastin added that the goal itself isn’t to give out more tickets, but to educate people. To that end, he said the police department helped spread the word about parking at new student orientation. And it seems people are learning.

In the first day of the school year, Mastin said they issued about 30 citations, but that has since dropped to about half of that per day.

Although she hasn’t received a ticket, BSU junior Amanda Wick said she’s heard about more people getting them.

That’s made her a bit more careful about the way she parks. Before this year, she might have taken a chance by parking a bit over the yellow line painted on curbs.  

“It’s made me a bit more wary,” Wick said, adding that it now takes more time to find a spot.

While Yarnott sympathizes with students, faculty and staff who park in the area, he said people should be conscious of other people’s safety.

“I don’t think people are being malicious,” said Yarnott, who has lived in his house a block away from campus for 20 years. “I know how it is when you’re in a hurry to get to class. You do some things you wouldn’t normally do.”

Ward 1 Councilor Kevin Waldhausen, who represents neighborhoods in the BSU area, said that while the parking situation has improved in terms of safety, congestion remains an issue.

“Is it something that we can live with? Yeah,” he said. “The perfect solution has not come.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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