RAWLINS – For years now, the City of Rawlins has wrangled over the possibility of mitigating what some residents consider a safety hazard – large, recreational vehicles and trailers being parked on city streets for long periods of time.
After resurrecting on Tuesday during Rawlins City Council, however, a proposal to regulate and possibly enforce strict parking time limits, including seasonal parking, the idea was once again shot down.
Before failing 4-1, Debari Martinez, Ward I representative, explained why he motioned to for the city to implement regulations, saying he’s received several complaints from his constituents about potential nuisance vehicles, as well as potentially having the “right tools” in place to abate any issues.
“One lady that called me – a senior citizen – says that the neighbor has trailers all away around the house,” Martinez said. “She can’t even have her family come over and have a birthday party because there’s no place for them to park. That’s not right.”
Martinez added, “They’ve got to have some respect for their neighbors and understand that the street doesn’t just belong to them and their toys.”
In the past, residents have complained that the notoriously narrow streets resting predominantly in the northwest neighborhoods of the city pose greater obstacles for first-response vehicles.
On Tuesday, Jacquelin Wells, at-large representative, supported the notion that having no ordinance in place poses as a potential safety issue, especially in winter.
“When you’re driving down those streets, it’s almost like you’re trying to avoid hitting 20 campers in the wintertime,” she said. “I do see this as an issue. And then kids trying to go out to the bus stop, running in between two trailers?”
“It’s kind of scary because they dart between those trailers and no one would ever see them.”
Others have also complained in the past that there’s been an overall lack of enforcement, which at one point in 2017 compelled Troy Palmer, Rawlins Police Chief, to say he’d personally enforce the parking issue.
Twenty nine complaints, however, have been made this year to the Rawlins Police Department regarding problem parking, according to Palmer. Yet, he said zero citations have been issued.
According to the city, a vehicle not parked in front its owner’s house for more than 24 hours is liable to get ticketed.
So instead taking initial action, once a complaint is made, Palmer said the department usually contacts the vehicle owner, giving them a 24-hour chance to vacate the spot before they’re issued a citation.
“We always give them an opportunity,” Palmer said. “We knock their door… ‘Hey, your trailer’s parked illegally. You need to move it.”
Mayor Steve Nicholson argued on Tuesday that implementing a parking limit would hinder labor-intensive businesses that rely on trailers and larger vehicles, like ranching and contracting.
“That means they can no longer (park) with this four-hour ordinance,” Nicholson said. “Same thing when it gets to hunting season.”
Rawlins, which is situated on a major continental divide, is a city nationally renowned for outdoor opportunities, which draws visitors and revenue. In fact, Outdoor Life Magazine once ranked it third on its list of top outdoor recreation cities in the U.S.
This is why it’s not hard to spot recreational vehicles interspersed throughout Rawlins city streets.
Nicholson also argued that camper and trailer owners have already paid extra fees attached with owning and operating their vehicles, so it’d be seen as “unfair” to disallow them from parking.
In addition, he argued that people would be forced to start parking their recreational vehicles in their driveways, causing the street to fill with regular cars and trucks.
Another known argument is that leaving trailers and campers on the street causes problems for snow removal. When hard “Wyoming Wind” blows, snowdrifts build near the vehicles.
Nicholson, however, said the city isn’t fully equipped in the first place for vacating snow in all areas.
“If we had every camper and trailer off the streets, we’re still not going to plow those residential streets,” he said. “We don’t have the man power or money.”
Nicholson added, “We’re not going to go out and plow people’s streets.”
The council wasn’t mum on providing solutions, however.
Ward III representative Aaron Durst suggested narrower roads in the city – between about eight and 16th streets – be rendered to one-ways, which would perhaps open up visibility.
“I would argue that that neighborhood is one of the worst in Rawlins as far as this particular issue goes,” Durst said. “Man, I’m telling you that would solve a million problems right there.”
But Scott Hannum, city manager, argued that rendering streets into one-ways “isn’t going to fix the problem.”
Hannum pointed out that campers have curbside exits, which means a person exiting the large vehicle could potentially walk into oncoming traffic, depending on where the camper is parked.
“I think you’re setting yourself up for disaster,” he said.
Hannum’s ultimate suggestion relates to the claim that being Rawlins is limited in this issue, he emphasized the need for more places for storage parking.
“I think it warrants to at least look at it,” said Hannum. “We need to come up with some sort of solution.”
Despite the failed proposal, the motion was made and passed to start developing a subcommittee dedicated to the issue.