City considers its handicap parking policy

Grand Marais City Council’s Sept. 25 meeting began with a visit from Rebecca Thompson of the American Legion.

The manager of Post 413 was there to request a handicap parking space in front of the Legion’s First Avenue West building. Thompson said there are many elderly veterans who are experiencing difficulty walking and having trouble getting into the building from their vehicles, especially when there are no vacant parking spaces nearby.

“We have older clients now, and there is a whole generation of military veterans with severe issues of mobility,” said Thompson, noting that that has changed in recent years, and will probably continue to worsen. “Our concern is for our clients as they become more disabled.”

Thompson requested that one parking space in front of the Legion’s building be designated as handicap only during the Legion’s hours of business—a request which was granted by council following a brief discussion.

City Administrator Mike Roth said the city has no policy governing the creation of handicap parking spaces, and each request is handled on a case-by-case basis. He said it’s not a big issue—there have been only two such requests in about the past seven years. “There are not a lot of requests for this, but it’s not a huge downtown either,” Roth said.

 Councilor Tim Kennedy asked what would be a reasonable policy, and pointed out that if the city is going to designate handicap parking spaces, it ought to be done right with curb cuts and proper signage. The way the city has been marking the handicap spaces, they don’t meet the accessibility requirements anyway, he said.

Mayor Larry Carlson said he is not against designating the handicap space on First Avenue West, but agreed there should be a policy. What if every business asked for a restricted space, he asked. Whose would be granted? Where would people park?

There was consensus that a handicap parking policy would be a good idea, and councilors approved Kennedy’s motion to direct Roth to conduct research and recommend other spaces in the downtown district.

In the meantime, the space in front of the American Legion has been marked with blue paint and a sign to be posted by the city’s street department is forthcoming.