To help relieve parking strife during next weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Five Points officials have placed signs in surrounding neighborhoods notifying festival-goers of free parking and shuttle services.
The temporary signs let people know there is free parking and shuttle pick-up from Capital City Stadium, the University of South Carolina’s Koger Center and Hand Middle School. The signs have been placed along major thoroughfares leading into Five Points.
Amy Beth Franks, executive director of the Five Points Association, said festival-goers also will be able to have their IDs checked at the shuttle pick-up points, instead of at festival gates. So “you are making good use of your time while waiting for the shuttle,” she said.
Franks said she has attended many neighborhood meetings to listen to residents’ complaints and concerns about the festival, including the fact that residents have not been able to access their own parking spots because of festival-goers.
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“As the executive director of the Five Points Association, you can’t help but recognize the importance of the neighborhoods,” said Franks, who spent last weekend placing the signs. “I value the neighborhoods, and I need them. If I have their support, it makes things easier.”
Kathryn Fenner, vice president of the University Hill Neighborhood Association, said this week that in the past, area residents – including many USC students – had problems parking where they usually park. Festival-goers driving through the neighborhood, searching for places to park, also caused traffic issues, she said.
But in more recent years, Fenners said, those problems were addressed. Police-manned barricades allowed University Hill residents in and out of the neighborhood while keeping festival-goers at bay. Now, the signs will also help divert the flow of festival-traffic away from their neighborhood, too.
Durham Carter, president of the Lower Waverly-MLK Park Neighborhood Association, said parking has only been a problem in his neighborhood in the days leading up to the St. Pat’s celebration, but normally things run smoothly during the actual festival.
“We have no problem with people parking wherever they can park as long as you are parking within the guidelines and follow the law,” Carter said.
Ron Burns, president of Shandon Neighborhood Association, said he too has noticed the signs, but as long as things go according to plan, as they did last year, there won’t be any problems.
“They are going to keep the same boundaries of the festival area, and police will deal with parking issues,” Burns said. “Last year went by pretty good.”
Although each of the neighborhood associations voiced some concern regarding the one hour extension of the festival to 8 p.m., Franks said all alcohol sales, which start at 9 a.m., will stop at a “hard 7 p.m.”
Franks said the extended hour will allow for Columbia police to clear the area and for city Department of Public Works clean-up crews to clear trash and collect recyclables.
“That hour is crucial for the organic breakdown of the festival,” Franks said. “We need our patrons to disseminate, you can’t just snap a finger and have them gone at seven. We want this to shut down as efficiently as it starts.”