Downtown parking confusion leads to dispute after Devils Run

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
This overhead shot, taken at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, shows the Devils Run parade. A dispute arose after some complained that parking spots were blocked off downtown. Commissioner Ben Sander said that the idea was to create a “community feel” while making viewing the parade easier. Devils Run organizer Stan Orness had an issue with the availability of parking, and some people who attended apparently complained to the city, though none voiced concerns at Monday’s City Commission meeting.

The 25th annual Devils Run parade brought out a reliably big turnout this year, but founder Stan Orness took issue with the city's decision to block off a number of parking spots downtown.

Normally, anyone can park downtown during Saturday's Devils Run parade on a first-come, first-serve basis. This year, scores of parking spaces downtown were blocked off by orange cones.

Orness expressed his concern about accessibility to everyone who wished to see the parade and the logistics required to make that happen.

"We try to bring people to downtown Devils Lake," Orness said. "We're not going downtown because that's the easiest thing for us to do."

Though he expressed frustration with how the downtown parking situation was handled, Orness said that he's committed to the annual parade.

"I'm going to continue to do Devils Run for as long as I can," Orness said.

City Commissioner Ben Sander described the decision to block of a portion of the parking downtown. He seemed surprised at the backlash to city's plan.

"It was mentioned in a few meetings just to open it up, make it feel more community-like," Sander said. "You can bring more people down, more people can view easier. It's easier for the drivers coming through, just to make it a little easier for them to see."

He said that the idea met little opposition when brought up at city meetings leading up to the annual event, though Sander admitted that the effort to convey the idea to those planning to see the parade, as well as downtown business owners, might not have been sufficient before Saturday's Devils Run.

"It was a big change to block that off. It was something that wasn't met with much disagreement, but afterwards it definitely was," Sander said. "The communication was bad; we thought the word was getting passed on. Hopefully we can do better at that."

However, Sander provided photos that seem to show a healthy amount of parking downtown, while also saying that the idea wasn't his alone. No one complained about the situation during Monday's meeting other than Orness, though Mayor Richard Johnson reported that he fielded a few complaints from citizens.

Sander said that he plans to speak with Orness to determine how best to move forward.

"I plan to call Stan and talk to him myself," Sander said. "We've seen it done in other communities, and that's the only reason it was brought up. We've seen state highways closed down specifically to have open space for spectators."

Sander noted that other cities have similarly closed down streets for parades while acknowledging the possible negative impact of the sudden change without enough effective communication to the public.

"Change is an issue up front. People aren't going to like it," Sander said. "I think Fargo, in certain areas, will block off the entire street up until the parade, so it's more wide open. That was the thinking, but the communication didn't go down too well. I think it should be open to discussion more."