Friday, July 9, 2010

Dugway Roadblock

Summer is in full swing here at the Indie Market. Life is relatively quiet, save for the occasional bumbling local cop or state trooper looking to be aggravated by a lovingly belligerent proprietor. Between hiking, swimming and the occasional branding assignment, I've been content to see the store sit and grow fallow under the hot sun.

In the regular course of swimming along the Huntington River at various points over the years, I've been mildly disturbed to find that some of my long-private and secluded spots have been co-opted by bong-toting college students, a cadre of aging nudists, and families with children. Yes, it's terribly frustrating at times, but proper river etiquette requires that I make brief and idle chitchat with the offending party before flailing about the particular point of water I have deemed mine. If families are determined to stay, I begrudgingly reaffix my trunks, which in water has the potential to become a terrifyingly awkward process.

The other great presences along the river this summer include Tom Levesque, the local fire chief, and the dutiful Richmond police department. The former serves as spotter for the later, a proper and well-appointed vanguard of cruisers (usually just one), which descends upon Dugway Road to issue tickets and occasionally tase a rowdy bunch of coeds. Their actions are not completely without merit. From noon until early evening, the popular stretch is reduced to a one lane obstacle course, dotted with the occasional dreaded or heinously tattooed creature, a roving dog, or an immovable group of goateed hardbodies about to suffer traumatic brain injury; unwilling to embrace the physics of a potential steel versus skin confrontation. That said, I think there is an alternative to this roadblock.

As a local, I am perhaps embracing a bit of the Mary Houle mantra "flatlander, go home!" But I genuinely think that the sheer quantity of vehicles clogging said stretch of dirt road is truly creating a safety concern. At certain points along the way, I am confident that an emergency service vehicle simply could not pass. A ticket does not rectify this dangerous situation. However, the Richmond police department is not certainly not interested in public safety. It's a well known fact that the sheer get-off of putting pen to a fresh ticket slip is far more gratifying than working with the town administration to develop a preemptive strategy. I don't blame them-it's simple economics. Tickets generate revenue for the administration, while measured deterrents do not.

Arguably, a ticket syphons a significant amount of business away from the Bolton, Huntington and Richmond communities. Every day, the Huntington River is packed young consumers (prime and popular targets for local, police), many of whom are likely going to spend their dollars locally. If this group is ticketed en masse, it creates an immediate disincentive to spend. Nothing kills the afternoon beer and pizza plan or a trip to the farmers' market like a big fat ticket. Granted, I've never actually been cited for parking along the river, but as the local gestapo's favorite public enemy, I can certainly empathize with being subject to their misguided approach to "protect and serve." Lord knows they've driven by my car on multiple occasions in a white-knuckled rage, wishing that I was just another inch further onto the road.

I think the best solution could be achieved through a collaboration between local businesses and the town administration. There are undoubtedly a slew of cost-effective means to encourage safe parking and local spending. It really would be a win-win scenario instead of the current lose-lose. Obviously, I think that a ticket should be paired with a tow for serious obstructors, but the town certainly ought to take the opportunity to properly educate its river-leaping guests. Bottom line, emergency vehicles still need a way to make it up the road, and a ticket simply doesn't solve that. Even if there isn't an official way to fix the problem, I think that enterprising local businesses could help to encourage safe parking and direct business their way a the same time.

Stay shiny Richmond!

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