BUCKHANNON - More of South Spring Street could remain open to traffic during this year's West Virginia Strawberry Festival to resolve some traffic and parking issues that local businesses have faced during past festivals.
The West Virginia Strawberry Festival Committee met this week with Buckhannon city officials and local business owners to discuss possible solutions. Buckhannon Mayor Kenny Davidson said he has an idea for a more long-term solution, but for this year's festival the WVSFC will consider a short-term solution that could potentially open up more roads to traffic.
"This year, we need to solve this problem," Davidson said. "I understand that folks that do business along there have issues with through traffic in their parking lot and certainly, the post office needs to maintain business."
One possible temporary solution Davidson suggested for this year's festival is to keep open to traffic a section of South Spring Street from the Madison Street intersection to at least the entrance of the United States Post Office. This also would allow Colerider Street - located between Hometown Car Care and the Post Office - to remain open and accessible at each of its intersections.
Postmaster Don Markley said about 62 percent of postal service customers are in and out of the post office daily. He said about a thousand post office customers utilize the post office boxes to retrieve their mail. Keeping the entrance unblocked this year would create more accessibility for his patrons, he said.
Davidson said he thinks people understand that "we are inconvenienced, all of us, during the Strawberry Festival. Ask people who live on Fayette, Pocahontas (streets) and Camden Avenue when we take their whole street up on Saturday morning or Friday night or Thursday evening for the parade line. They don't like it, but go along."
Davidson said there are plans to refurbish the North Spring Street parking lot with planters, light posts and other fixtures. Davidson said he will propose to Buckhannon City Council that the West Virginia Strawberry Festival utilize the parking lot on North Spring Street for the carnival instead of following through on those previously made plans.
Currently, the parking area is metered and the meters would be in the way of carnival rides, Davidson said during an interview later Wednesday afternoon. He is proposing the meters be removed and replaced with a gated parking area that customers can swipe a card to enter. That parking area would be smoothed and flattened and could then be better utilized for the carnival area once a year for the Strawberry Festival, Davidson said.
"I promise to you that we will begin immediately to try to come up with a plan to move this thing for next year to North Spring Street," the mayor said. "I promise you we'll work on that. I can't say how Council would vote, but that's what I'm going to propose."
For this year's festival, however, the placement of carnival rides has not yet been determined, but business owners and Strawberry Festival Committee members seemed to be in agreement with the one-time proposal to open up part of South Spring Street. The possible solution could reduce through traffic in the parking lots of local businesses. However, because the discussion is still young, Strawberry Festival Committee members have not yet discussed the possible changes with carnival affiliates.
"We're very pleased," said Scott Williams, owner of The Daily Grind and an affiliate of Hometown Car Care. "We appreciate you working with us."
Williams said Hometown Car Care needs to be able to drive vehicles in and out of the facility to do business.
Although opening up part of South Main Street this year could be a temporary fix to the traffic concerns of local businesses, Davidson said a permanent solution needs to be agreed upon.
"We can't go through this every year," Davidson said. "We can't change this every year. We have got to find a way to permanently come up with a home for the carnival."
Because of separate parking incidents that occurred during last year's festival, Davidson asks that patrons be mindful of private parking areas. Some vehicles parked in different locations across town were towed because they had been parked in private lots last year. Councilman Ron Pugh said the entire parking area where Goodwill and Hometown Car Care operate is for private parking.
The WVSF is slated for May 10-18. More information is available online at www.wvstrawberryfestival.com.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.