Editorial: Concert night parking

Improving — if not exactly solving — the concert night parking problem in the village ought to be doable.

The free concerts in Ballard Park on Tuesday and Thursday nights all summer attract crowds — as good things that are free often do. People tend to arrive in cars, drive as close to Ballard Park as they can get, then park their cars and walk to the concert with their folding chairs and coolers. Concertgoers’ cars fill up the parking areas close to the park — particularly the lot in front of CVS. And that’s a problem for the nearby businesses, mostly restaurants, that are still open weekday evenings. Business owners feel that the concerts, rather than helping businesses by drawing crowds to the village, are hurting them by filling up all the parking spaces.

The Parking Authority launched an initiative last summer, putting out signs that designated areas where parking is reserved for businesses’ customers, and directing concertgoers to areas where parking wouldn’t cause problems. Workers were out in the lots, directing traffic.

Some nasty exchanges were reported — drivers tend to think any empty parking space is their space, and some folks resent being told what to do.

But the truth is that — at 7 on weekday evenings, anyway, when most stores and offices are closed — the village isn’t short of parking. It’s just that, human nature being what it is, all the spots closest to Ballard Park fill up first.

When the selectmen last discussed it, Steve Zemo suggested a public relations initiative: Work parking reminders into publicity on the musical acts performing; make announcements during concerts, requesting future cooperation.

That seems worth a try. Concertgoers just need to change habits and park a little farther away, rather than filling up the entire lot beside the park.

Yes, it involves fighting that subconscious instinct to get as close as possible before getting out of the car. But folks are getting great music for free. Walking a couple of blocks, on Ridgefield’s lovely Main Street, on warm summer evenings, isn’t that big an ask.