Parking tensions high at UNCA


Seth Maile

Parking signs across campus show designations for each lot.

Hayden Bailey, [email protected], Arts & Features Writer

COVID, free-for-all freshmen parking and deck closures have all been named as prime suspects in the current parking crisis on campus. 

Randy Wilburn, maintenance supervisor of housing at UNCA, said he thinks the parking situation, although inconvenient, will be temporary.

“Once the Ridges’ parking deck is finished, it’s going to alleviate a lot of this,” he said.

Parking permits and their cost also strike a sore spot among students and staff.

“I pay over $200 bucks for a parking pass,” Wilburn said.

He brought up the issue of faculty and staff driving to work every day, lacking the luxury of leaving their car parked in the same spot all week. 

“There are a lot of student and non-resident parking but when we pull up and the parking lots are full, where are we supposed to park?” Wilburn said.

He discussed staff being forced to park so far away and trying to catch the shuttle in. 

“We love our students here and try to make it the best for them. But we’re here more than four years and I think we should be taken care of since we’re here to make it the best we can for the students,” Wilburn said. 

Maddy Gilroy, senior at UNCA and a resident, said she really appreciates the parking in front of the resident halls. 

“What I don’t like is how they separated it from last year when they had first year parking and then upperclassmen parking,” she said. 

Gilroy said she feels for people who live in the Woods, mentioning a friend of hers who lives there but parks near Sherrill.

“It is not ideal to have to walk across campus, which was not the point of giving us the spots in front of Highsmith,” the student said. 

She recalled her first year when there was no first-year parking, saying it’s great for them to have such privileges this year but wishing they had designated spots again. 

“I walked the hill and I am not walking the hill again,” Gilroy said, laughing. 

Elias Hatcher, maintenance mechanic at UNCA, said it seems like poor planning might be the root of the parking issues. 

“The work should have started as soon as students were out of the building and it didn’t,” Hatcher said. 

He said this presented cause for more student parking, which previously belonged to faculty and staff. 

“Personally I have to park further away from where I work and it’s alright for me but it’s less convenient and we pay for our parking,” Hatcher said. 

He said it would make more sense to have faculty and staff parked closer to where they are working. 

Senior Alexis Douglas, recounts what she calls a shocking experience.  

“I’ve always complained about the parking but then I had to go park at Olli, the top parking lot,” Douglas said. 

She said she was very taken aback since like most students, she pays $200 for a permit. 

“I’m not even getting good parking for that,” the senior said. 

Madison Milligan, housekeeper in charge of Ponder and the Ridges, rides her electric scooter to work everyday yet still has words to say concerning parking. 

“Almost all the staff are getting tickets and if they do find a parking spot, it’s across campus and the shuttles aren’t open yet since we start work at 7 a.m.,” Milligan said. 

She said she thinks staff being required to pay for parking is messed up. 

“For staff, I’m like, maybe y’all should give us free parking in actual spots,” she said. 

David Weldon, interim associate vice chancellor of Public Safety, raises good points, referencing long lasting COVID effects.

“This is the first year we are really back from COVID, which makes it a two-year sabbatical for most people so everything looks different when they come back,” Weldon said. 

He mentions the Ridges parking deck, P4, and the loss of 185 student spots. 

“That created some challenges for us because it happened over the summer. We’ve been waiting to try and get the funds and the contractor we need,” Weldon said. 

The limited number of spaces combined with trying to absorb 185 spots creates a problem where nobody will end up happy, he said. 

“In a post-COVID world, after not seeing a lot of parking issues for two years, we got complacent because you could just park about anywhere you want,” Weldon said. 

Campus Operations is currently working with a contractor and has fingers crossed to be able to reopen P4 quickly, he said. 

“I don’t want to give a timeline because I really don’t know but we are hopeful maybe September or October,” Weldon said. 

With everyone back, events happening and everything else trying to be absorbed within a days’ time, things began to get complex, the associate vice chancellor said. 

“When we lost the deck, we gave P16 back to staff and faculty,” he said. 

Weldon encourages everyone to look around campus for the underutilized parking lots, saying spaces are available, just maybe not where everyone wants them to be. 

“We are actually studying what parking looks like with a full load. We couldn’t do that during COVID because we didn’t have anybody here,” he said. 

The subject of first-year parking changes can also be somewhat accredited to COVID, Weldon said. 

“That’s been eliminated for about two years now and wasn’t really noticed because of COVID,” he said. 

The relabeling of parking lots lacking in freshmen designation got everybody stirred up, Weldon said. 

“The number of parking spaces really hasn’t changed. It’s just where we used to have designated lots, they’re all permit parking lots now,” he said. 

Weldon said 74 people signed up for the free lot, a temporary arrangement in an attempt to relieve some of the parking tension. 

“One of the things I think we need to do is educate our community about the real advantage we have as a very consolidated campus,” he said. 

Those who did the planning, Weldon one of them, walked from P34 to the center of the quad. 

“I made it walking very slowly in about 8.5 minutes and that is one of our further lots out,” he said. 

Weldon confidently said adjustments can be made to make everything work. 

“I just think everybody has to be a little flexible and understand that we all have to give and take. We’re all here to support our students,” the associate vice chancellor said. 

Parking will continue to be looked at from a holistic viewpoint, Weldon said, especially when more events begin to happen and places like the ballroom open. 

“We’ve talked with the SDA, the faculty senate and staff council. We’re trying to get input but there will never be a perfect fix for parking,” he said. 

Adam Sorgi, a junior studing managment at UNCA, said parking this year proves significantly more complicated than in previous years.

“I understand that P4 is under renovation and it makes sense that it’s closed. What doesn’t make sense is why all parking is open to freshmen,” he said. 

Sorgi said upperclassmen took a hit with P4 but also with freshmen having the freedom to park anywhere. 

“My roommate and I are in Mills now and we have to park all the way across campus. It’s so different from my first two years here,” the junior said, 

He recounts his first two years at UNCA, saying it was only on occasion you couldn’t find a spot and now it’s all the time. 

“I don’t know the exact way to fix things but it doesn’t take a genius to know it needs something,” Sorgi said.