Parking problem needs to be resolved

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 1999

Education, not enforcement. That’s how the Natchez police chief and the chief of the city’s downtown development organization want to resolve parking problems in the historic district.

We hope the approach will work.

Anyone who has spent 15 minutes circling a downtown block – or blocks – in search of a parking spot during lunch hour knows how precious those spaces can be.

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And the dozens of downtown merchants’ whose livelihoods depend on customers coming in those shops know how necessary those parking places are.

But many of those same merchants – and the employees who work for them – are violating the two-hour parking limits on downtown streets, opting instead to park in front of or near their businesses.

And leaving customers – or potential customers – to fend for themselves.

It’s simply a matter of perception and priorities.

First is the challenge of eliminating the perception that parking around the block is too far downtown. While we all enjoy the convenience of parking in front of a store or restaurant, Natchez has three public parking lots in downtown that are within easy walking distance of most shops and eateries.

And business owners as well as shoppers can use those spots.

Second, it’s a matter of priorities.&160;While it’s much more convenient for business owners to park at or near their front door while unloading or loading vehicles, leaving those same vehicles parked in those spots sends a negative message to potential customers.

Instead, shopkeepers and employees should apply their mindset of customer service and convenience outside their doors by leaving those spots open for their customers.

Our downtown retailers and merchants specialize in both customer service and hospitality. It’s a hallmark of Natchez’s business community.

It’s time we extend that concern to the parking situation and resolve it.