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Elkins’ parking problem is welcome sign of the times

August 29, 2009
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

We've all heard Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion, which states, "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." Well, the placement of the posts along Railroad Avenue to prevent parking on the railyard side of the street has caused a lot of reaction, but I'm not sure about it being equal to the action. Restricting the parking along the avenue is raising questions to which citizens are looking for answers.

It is my understanding that the posts are there so the street can be "landscaped" to present more favorable aesthetics to our residents and visitors. The question being asked, though, is, "Where are people supposed to park?" I think that's a fair question considering the fact that that part of town is once again becoming the "center of attraction" of our fair city.

Don't misunderstand me; I agree with the beautification of the area. While the posts don't look all that bad standing there as sentinels against would be parkers, they could be made a little more attractive if the RCDA would spring for some sort of white rope or small-link chain to tie them together with a bit of "swag" between them. It is fast becoming the most visible part of town, especially to our visitors who come to enjoy the theater and ride the trains. Hopefully, too, the new restaurant will be opening soon, which, while it has some parking space of its own, will add even more congestion to the area. This new parking restriction also presents a problem for those big 18-wheelers that used to park along the street.

Parking problems are an obvious and welcome sign of the times. More and more visitors are coming to town spending more money and business is good. Some merchants might call me to task on this, however. The real concern of most of those who I've talked to about the parking situation since the posts were installed is not so much that parking is no longer permitted along Railroad Avenue, but what actions the city may be contemplating to remedy the problem. Is there vacant space nearby that could be used as a municipal parking lot (other than that behind city hall), or would the construction of a parking building be a suitable and economic remedy?

I asked Harold Elbon, one of our local contractors, last week what he thought about a parking building and was surprised by what he said.

"The city of Charleston loses money each year on their parking buildings," Elbon said.

I would interpret that to mean that a parking building is not the best option; but if one was built, a parking fee sufficient to pay for and maintain it would be necessary. Some might find that fee in excess of what they consider reasonable.

I seriously doubt, though, that anyone owning a parcel of real estate near the old railyard large enough to serve as a parking lot is interested in seeing it turned into a heat-absorbing slab of concrete or asphalt.

I mentioned the problem of the 18-wheelers. If anyone thinks that the truck drivers do not warrant consideration of their local parking problems, let me provide a couple of facts regarding the trucking industry. Despite the slowdown in the U.S. economy in the second half of 2006 and for much of 2007, (the latest data available) the trucking industry, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, hauled more goods than ever before. In fact, trucks carry every good consumed in the U.S. at some point of its distribution.

Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Motor Truck Association, revealed at the association's annual convention on Aug. 2-4 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., that there are 44,634 trucking jobs in West Virginia, or one out of 17 of all the jobs in the state. Total wages in 2005 exceeded $1.5 billion, and the average annual trucking industry salary in the state was $33,013. They deserve some parking consideration when they come home for the weekend.

So, what's the solution? If you have an idea, I'll bet that city hall would like to hear it. Whatever means is taken to relieve the problem, the physical phase of the remedy is somewhere out there in the future. Isn't now the time to be putting some serious thought into the planning phases of the problem? If this is already in

Here's one last reminder of the meetings planned for Tuesday and Thursday in the Randolph County Courthouse Annex conference room regarding the county's E-911 Mapping and Addressing. The purpose of the meetings, according to Marvin Hill, director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, "is to permit all Randolph County citizens to review the mapping and addressing road-name database and to assure the proper road name is assigned to their road. Maps covering the entire county will be available for viewing.

"After these meetings, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change or correct road names," Hill added. "I strongly urge everyone who is or thinks they may be affected by this program to attend one of these meeting."

A couple of weeks ago, I touched on the concern of some of our citizens about when, or if, the new restaurant in the railyard would open to the public. In a brief conversation with Railyard Enterprises' General Manger Kathy Smith last week, she said, "We are working hard to get the restaurant open as soon as possible to the general public. As many may already know, we have been using the facility to prepare the food for all the train rides including the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train. We also use the facility to feed the bus groups after their train ride before they walk next door to enjoy a show at the American Mountain Theater. Other groups stay a while longer in the restaurant and enjoy a performance by the very talented, local band known as Jump in Time.

"It's a beautiful building," Smith said, "and we can't wait for the rest of the public to enjoy it with us. There will be table seating for dining on the porch overlooking the town square, the Depot and the trains.

"It will be great; we just have a few final details to get done, and that shouldn't take too much longer."

There is good news for all those who were so used to getting the Sunday edition of many out-of-town newspapers that Dennis and Jane Howell provided for so many years. Starting Sunday, the papers will be available at Sally Yeager's 301 Coffee Co. on Third Street across from the federal building. Sunday morning Yeager will have The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Dominion Post and The Cumberland Times. Next week, in addition to those mentioned, she will have The Clarksburg Exponent, The Charleston Gazette-Mail and The New York Times.

Yeager said, "We will open on Sundays at 7 a.m. and remain open until around 1 p.m. until we see how things work out. The hours could change depending on our customers' needs.

"We are happy to restore the availability of the out-of-town newspapers," Yeager said, "as well as provide a place for folks to browse their papers while they enjoy a leisure cup of coffee and their favorite breakfast pastry."

Regular hours for Mondays through Fridays are from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. "We are still trying to get a feel for our Saturday hours, too," Yeager said. "We will open at 9 a.m. on Saturday for a while until we see what our customers need."



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