Parking issue result of tougher times

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The Crosswalks Community Outreach program has reached a crossroads.

The number of people participating in the food bank and free sit-down lunch has grown considerably.

Several verbal complaints have been levied about the lack of parking at the Naples Town Office; and the people who complained blamed the food bank and complementary lunch that takes place in the town gymnasium twice a month on Mondays.

The complaints began this winter — prior to the busier times during the summer when tourists and seasonal residents arrive and children are released from school.

On Monday night, more than two dozen Crosswalks volunteers attended the Naples Board of Selectmen meeting to defend their services, and to find alternatives for the overcrowded parking situation.

In the end, the board agreed to form a subcommittee with Crosswalks members and come up with a reasonable resolution.

Selectman Christine Powers, who was aiming for an amiable solution, said, “We have a great problem and a terrible problem. We have a terrible problem because there are more people than ever in need; and we have a great problem because Crosswalks’ kitchen is so successful that parking has become an issue,” Powers said.

Crosswalks Community Outreach Director Joanna Moore said the parking dilemma at the town office is not the fault of the nonprofit, which hands out food and offers lunches.

“I have taken pictures of the parking lot when we were not here; and the parking lot was full,” Moore said.

“We are open 7.3 % of the time. We are here 26 days a year, every other Monday.

I have counted the parking spaces.

There are no signs for (United States) Post Office parking. There are 758 mail boxes, and about 28 parking spaces,” she said.

As was mentioned several times, Crosswalks volunteers park their own vehicles behind the town office or along Lambs Mill Road. Also, they have encouraged food pantry participants to parallel park on the sides of Lambs Mill Road, which is close to the town office.

Like other people who spoke, Moore said she has arrived at the town office — on days when the Crosswalks was not in operation — and found parking scarce.

Some days, she has parked her vehicle along Route 302 and walked up the hill. She said that did not warrant a complaint.

“I get it when people tell me they cannot find parking. I understand,” Moore said.

Chairman Dana Watson took the floor.

“You are the ones who don’t understand. The town granted to you, to your organization, the use of the gymnasium. If people are complaining, you have to change,” Watson said.

One of the drawbacks of moving a location or the time of this service is to make it accessible to area senior citizens. For many of those residents, the lunch is a social time to visit with acquaintances, the volunteers said.

While there was some frustration expressed, people also suggested some alternatives such as holding the community meals at the American Legion or the Naples Fire Station. Other ideas included expanding the parking lot, or holding the meals and food pantry from 1 to 3 p.m. since the town office closes at noon on Monday.

The board did not yet finalize a solution. However, board members plan to meet with Crosswalks staff on Monday morning.


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