Parking has been cut back at the Big Dam Bridge, which draws huge crowds of families, walkers, runners and bicyclists on weekends, after a complaint by the Army Corps of Engineers workers at the Murray Lock and Dam that cars were making egress and ingress to the fenced-off federal property unsafe.
Visitors to the dam were able, until about a month ago, to park parallel on the south side of the span of Rebsamen Park Road from the main road to the Lock and Dam gate. The road used to accommodate about 24 vehicles, according to a Times estimate. The parking lot north and alongside the road can accommodate 39 cars, with four of the spots reserved for handicapped parking. A sign now tells visitors that overflow parking can be found in Murray Park, on Rebsamen road 6/10ths of a mile east of the entrance to the parking lot and connected to the lot by an asphalt path.
The back story, according to several agreeing sources, is that bicyclists believe employees of the Corps have been driving too fast down the 10 mph entrance to the lock and dam and Corps employees believe cyclists have been careless by congregating in the road. A Corps employee who was leaving work apparently honked at a cyclist to get out of the road and called police when the cyclist didn’t move. (The Times has asked for a police incident report to confirm.)
The county erected the no parking signs; LRPD officers have written tickets to those who park. (The jurisdiction is complicated at the Big Dam Bridge, assistant City Manager Bryan Day explained: The Corps of Engineers owns the property and the county has a local use agreement with it. The city leases the land from the corps.)
Day said the city is trying to come up with a plan for more parking. Then the city will have to come up with the money.
Parks and Recreation assistant director Mark Webre noted that Murray Park has bathrooms, which he sees as a positive for folks who’ll have to park there, and noted that they’ll be walking when they get to the park as well. He acknowledged, however, that by reducing parking at the bridge, the city has potentially created a traffic jam on the narrow asphalt path that connects Murray Park and the bridge park, which will now be used by families pushing strollers, little kids, runners and hikers with bikers weaving in and among them.