On the Perils of Parking in Downtown Augusta
As the sun began to set, a strenuous journey lay ahead. Our party of six men, women and children stood atop the steep hill next to the North Augusta Municipal Building, sweat glistening on our foreheads as the sun beat down.
We stared at the slope that runs through flower beds and freshly cut grass, a slope that must have spanned an entire sixteenth of a football field. And that was only the beginning.
For those few who survived such an onslaught of greenery and generally beautiful views through which they had inexplicably chosen to walk, yards upon yards of paved wasteland sat waiting on the other side, the final and most difficult trial between them and their reward: the long-awaited SRP Park.
As we stood in horror, trying to wrap our brains around the amount of good fortune that would have to come our way in order to make such a treacherous, tenth-mile pilgrimage in one piece, hope emerged from just beyond the slope: a golf car. A golf car driven by a man who, by all accounts, seemed to be the most normal human a human could be. But in that moment, he was our savior.
We climbed in, and when everyone was safely on board, we began our adventure into the great unknown. As grateful as we were for our safe passage, it was a heartbreaking experience. As our game-time shuttle service rolled along that lifeless concrete desert, spanning inches upon inches of pavement, we were soon surrounded by no less than a dozen foolhardy souls who had for some reason taken it upon themselves to walk the entire 150 yards with their own two legs. As we passed by the poor saps and then watched them disappear into the distance, we were overcome with pity for our fellow citizens. Would they ever be seen again?
As Riverside Village continues to be developed, hopefully that kind of unparalleled bravery won’t be necessary for long. Unfortunately, the same parking woes continue to plague downtown Augusta, and guess what, people: It’s only going to get worse.
The institution of parking meters on Broad Street probably isn’t far off, after which swaths of good citizens will be forced to venture into faraway and largely uncharted territories like Ellis Street.
The few lucky souls who survived long enough to tell the tale have said that a completely empty parking garage sits just beyond the horizon at the corner of Ninth and Ellis streets and is completely open to the public after 5 p.m. Some have even said that if you squint hard enough for just a moment as the sun rises, you can see it with your own two eyes. But can we really trust those accounts?
I don’t consider myself a skeptic, but the fact is that we just don’t know what lies beyond Broad Street, and we may never know. And I’m here to tell you that that’s OK. It’s OK for you to get nervous every time you find yourself having to walk to the distant lands of Humanitree House. It’s OK to snag that handicap spot so you don’t have to walk three blocks just to grab a simple lunch at Nacho Mama’s. Isn’t the heat exhaustion a bigger risk anyway?
Sadly, a message of affirmation and comfort isn’t my goal here. On the contrary, I’m here to warn you that the day we all are forced to become those pitiable pedestrians at the GreenJackets’ home opener — trudging our way across dozens, potentially hundreds, of feet to get to our destinations — is coming. It is coming soon.
There will be no rest for the weary. Getting rid of the parking wells on Broad Street will help, but it won’t help much. This much is clear: parking space on Broad Street has hit its capacity, and it is officially time to freak out.
The most heartbreaking part of that reality is that there are those who will laugh at our pain. There are those who will hear my pleas and scoff, discounting these concerns as petty, even melodramatic. There are those who would say that if you think walking 500 feet to Whiskey Bar sounds like a tough task, you should probably stop eating at Whiskey Bar.
I’m going to give those snarky comments exactly the amount of attention they deserve: Zero. And I would encourage you to do the same. Because as the merciless winds of change have swept over this town over the last few years, one thing has become clear: All we have in this cruel, postmodern world is each other.
So, as your friend, I am here to tell you that your downtown parking panic is completely warranted. In fact, you’re probably not panicking enough.
Am I encouraging more downtown parking hysterics? Yes, but only because I care about the people of this city. Having said that, just know that if a golf car start running bodies back and forth from the Ellis Street parking garage to our favorite Broad Street restaurants, and all the seats are taken, I will 100 percent dropkick anyone of you off that godsend of a vessel. It’s nothing personal. It’s just 2018. And that’s what it’s going to take to survive.