Limited parking is a concern on any college campus; however, this year problems with parking at Rocky Mountain College have been magnified since a portion of the Tech Hall parking lot became unavailable due to the construction of the new science building.
Junior equestrian major Dalaney Soto said it has been a frustrating semester because parking is so limited.“Often times, the overflow parking next to the theatre and above Fortin is full,” Soto said. “I recently received a ticket for parking in the Widenhouse lot after being unable to find parking in my designated lot at Tech Hall.”
Dean of Students Brad Nason explained the situation in an email that was sent to students and faculty on Sept. 2 of this year. In his email Nason stated, “The project will permanently eliminate 28 parking spots in the Tech Lot; however, construction of a new parking lot northeast of the Student Center will commence immediately, and should be complete by November 1st.”
As of Nov. 21st, construction of the new parking lot had not yet started. According to Nason, this has happened for a multitude of reasons and that at the time of the email he was concerned that there was a parking crisis on campus.
“The parking lot had always been scheduled to be put in by October 2017,” Nason said. “I asked the contractors to move that to the front of the project, instead of the end of the project, and they agreed to do that. That’s what we were considering doing at that time. Subsequently, the ramifications of that are there are 8 big trees, $2,500 trees, that were scheduled to be moved to make room for that parking lot. Those trees are going to be relocated to the front of the new science center. We could not do that if we flip-flopped the process. We were going to relocate the trees over by Veterans Park, but then we did a couple of parking lot inventories and realized that we had plenty of parking around the perimeter of campus.”
Nason’s email also noted that the west entrance off of Poly Drive would be closed throughout the duration of the project, which was estimated to be 12-14 months. He also warned students in the Tech Hall parking lot to be extra cautious due to increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area. According to the email, additional inconveniences such as short term power outages, water shut-offs, and the temporary elimination of additional parking spaces would occur throughout the duration of the project.
Nason also noted that several short term adjustments to parking policies would be initiated. These adjustments included issuing a limited number of Widenhouse/Anderson parking permits to students that currently hold Tech Hall permits, designating the West Jorgenson parking lot as an “overflow parking area” (meaning no permit would be required to access the lot and that tickets would not be issued in that area), and that the designated van parking area would be moved from the North Fortin parking lot to the West Jorgenson lot, freeing up five additional spaces.
Even with these adjustments to policy, many students have had trouble finding a parking spot in their designated parking area on campus. Karel Kaiser, a senior studying business management, said that he has been frustrated with a lack of communication from the administration and with the current situation in the Tech Hall parking lot.
“The ongoing construction has certainly been an inconvenience to the student population,” said Kaiser. “It is somewhat frustrating that the students have received no updates as far as the project is concerned. Even though there are other parking options available around campus, the situation at the Tech Hall lot has proved frustrating for many students. Unfortunately, the lot is located in the center of campus and is frequently congested. The road leading to the lot is not only subject to being filled by most of the students that live off of campus, but also individuals from the community that use the Fortin facilities. Often the road cannot safely sustain two-way traffic since many students in the dorms use the road to commute to class, rather than the sidewalk.”
Amberly Tanzosh has been Rocky’s campus safety supervisor since July 1. In an email to The Summit, Tanzosh noted that she is still trying to learn the ropes of the position and that it is not the responsibility of Campus Safety to make parking policy, only to enforce it.
Tanzosh feels that it is the individual responsibility of the students to adapt to their environment and find parking.
“I know it’s frustrating for students when they can’t park right where they want, right when they want, but that’s not how life works,” said Tanzosh. “I really do see Rocky as a safe place for students to learn how to become adults. Part of that is trying to work with them to think about planning ahead for things like parking issues. Leave five minutes earlier.”
Tanzosh said that on one occasion, a Wednesday between 9 and 10am, she walked from the Widenhouse/Anderson parking lot to the West Jorgenson lot and counted 74 empty parking spaces. Nason agreed that this was the parking lot inventory that he referred to, and that contributed to his decision to hold off on the new parking lot, which will provide 57 additional parking spaces.
Tanzosh also noted the fact that parking permits at Rocky are free while permits at MSU Billings are $100 annually and at UofM are $225 for the full year. According to Tanzosh the parking citations at these universities are also higher.
According to Nason, the number of students that hold parking permits is not tracked, but he feels that the parking provided to students is currently adequate. He does believe there is always room for improvement. He encourages students and faculty to contact him or campus safety with questions or suggestions regarding parking.