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Tourism and Parking - Is this our Livelihood?

By: Amy Kubishin March 19th, 2024

On March 7th, 2024, the Jim Thorpe Borough Council specifically invited the public to come to the monthly workshop meeting to voice their concerns, opinions, and recommendations related to growing concern related to parking, overcrowding, and congestion. These changes, which were specifically intended to relieve some of the tension and inconveniences that the elevated tourism has brought to the town, seem to have brought more discontent. 

A room that was packed - elbow to elbow - definitely surpassed any other Workshop meeting that I have attended. Residents, Business Owners, and business employees came together to speak up. I felt some sort of relief, as I noticed a lot of prominent people in the room, and I had no intention of speaking, because I had sent Police Chief Schatz my list of ideas and suggestions the week before. 

As the public comments began, the main topic of discussion was that of the Kiosk rate increase on the street parking. The proposed rates would change from $1 to $2 an hour Monday through Thursday, and to $3 an hour Friday through Sunday. There would also be a .50 per hour additional charge to use a debit card, which is the preferred and most commonly used method to pay. Along with this cost increase, a time increase would also change from 9-5 to 8-8. This means, Kiosks would be in use from 8am to 8pm, daily.  Although these suggestions are still in the proposal stages, and could change, last month's borough council meeting told me that most of the council members are in favor of these changes. 

Several business owners who were opposed to this kiosk change stated that they would lose employees, or they would have to pay them $3/hr more to keep them. Neither of these options were feasible.  Downtown employees expressed their worry, candidly saying, they cannot afford that loss of income, when the majority of their jobs are tip based. Some suggestions to alleviate this issue were to provide a parking area for business employees, maybe including a shuttle or system to provide safe transport to/from this parking area.  A few residents who do not have off-street parking at their Broadway homes use street parking as the norm. They asked if they would be excluded from these new changes, and if the borough would offer some type of discount or pass that could be utilized. 

Office manager of The Leigh Coal and Navigation building expressed uncertainty for her residents. Most are disabled and elderly. She asked what type of compromise the borough would give to these people, considering only a handful of those residents still drive. 

Another topic that became an issue was the overflow of tourism. The gridlock on in the Heights, and East Side during Fall Fest that occurred last October.  How would we create a sense of security for the residents, and how would we alleviate the obvious problems that go along with that type of chaos?  Suggestions were made to decrease advertising for Jim Thorpe's Fall festival, close roads off the main roads to deter overflow traffic, park and shuttle,  and the old a parking garage. 

The owner of Canyon Rim Estates also offered his property for commercial parking, as well as providing a shuttle. He was abruptly silenced and reminded of the laws and regulations needed to do that.  

The borough is looking at possibly issuing Residential parking passes for designated areas that are highly affected by the overflow tourist parking. This was suggested as a May through December option, Fri-Sunday. It seems as though residents are slightly confused and concerned about this option also. The worry of guest passes and the inconvenience to obtain a guest pass was also mentioned. Is this option needed, and if so, where?

Even with all of the worry and annoyance the residents expressed, the one thing that stood out the most to me is that everyone wants to stay here in Jim Thorpe. The residents love their town, the business and their employees want to continue serving the community with their original and unique products. So how do we come up with a plan to reduce the tempers and disgruntled attitudes that are growing right along with the prosperity? We need leaders who listen. We need people to step up and help with the progress. 

This isn't a simple solution for anyone. It's a collaborative effort that all of us have to participate in. 

The attainable goal is to sustain the well-being of the residential community and provide the means for tourism to thrive and grow. Without both, our town would succumb to the inevitable,  which we have seen before, here and in the surrounding areas.  We need residents to provide the support our local officials need, by volunteering time, as well as opinions. We need residents to be aware of the leadership that is enabling our community to thrive, and those who wish to see it unchanged and unbothered. 

Attend your Borough Council meetings, contact the police department about volunteering, and/or join groups such as JTTA or Lions Club. 

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