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Originally published: 2012-08-06 14:31:11
Last modified: 2012-08-06 14:32:42

Dangerous parking situation

A few days ago I was almost hit head-on by another vehicle because I was on the wrong side of the road while navigating a blind curve. The other driver could not have seen me. Fortunately, we were both going slowly and were able to brake in time, thus avoiding an accident and possible injuries.

You must be thinking, why was this person in the wrong lane facing oncoming traffic while taking a sharp turn? It's a very simple explanation: for years the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, the N.C. State Highway Patrol and the U.S. National Park Service have dealt with the ongoing problem of illegal parking by locals and tourists. They park at the entrance to the trailhead that leads to Hebron Falls, which is just off Old Turnpike Road at the extreme northern boundary of Julian Price Memorial Park. This site is quite beautiful and is highlighted as one of the "must see" natural locations while visiting the Boone area in our local Visitor's Guide. Unfortunately, neither the park service nor the N.C. Department of Transportation has come up with and implemented a solution to this very dangerous situation.

There may often be upward of 30-40 vehicles parked on both sides of this narrow, twisting, gravel road on any given Saturday or Sunday during the summer. The local sheriff's office told me that this problem has existed for years. I find this hard to believe. This past Sunday, there was an entire group of people sitting in lawn chairs right out in the road. Surely, someone must have realized they were sitting in the middle of a state road?

I recently moved into the neighborhood and was immediately struck by the inconvenience created for residents, but more importantly, the danger in letting children, dogs, open doors, coolers and vehicles parked on both sides of the road impeding the flow of traffic. The U.S. National Park Service says it can't put in a parking lot (no money, I assume), but can't the state at least put up signs stating, "No Parking At Any Time -- This is a Towaway Zone?"

As it stands right now, the families parking on the side of the road aren't even aware that they are breaking the law or creating a dangerous situation. At the very least, there should be signs posted stating the consequences of parking illegally.

Can you imagine what it must feel like to spend an afternoon swimming, hiking and taking in the sites, only to return to an empty street because your car has been towed? Yes, troopers will issue citations or tow vehicles when called with a complaint, but the bigger issue here is, "Don't they have better things to do with their time?" Shouldn't the visitors be allowed to enjoy their weekend or vacation time without fear of being towed or cited; especially, since there are no signs stating otherwise?

As our primary newspaper in Boone and Watauga County, I encourage you to investigate this situation, and do some proactive reporting for the benefit of our hard working state employees, our visitors who come to Watauga County for some rest and relaxation, and those who live here, too.

Kathryn Dalton