On Feb. 9, the campus community received a campus wide e-mail from President Urgo informing them that due to a recent push for Keep St. Mary’s Beautiful, Public Safety will begin to more strictly enforce traffic and parking violations. In the e-mail, President Urgo stated, “On campus, I have asked Public Safety to be diligent in enforcing traffic and parking prohibitions… We don’t like to do so, but violators will be ticketed.”
Cars detract from the natural aesthetic unique to St. Mary’s. “[The parking regulations are] part of our desire to… emphasize the beauty of the campus and to emphasize it as a walking campus, not a driving campus,” said Urgo. “In the past year or so we’ve noticed that people have gotten bad habits, gotten used to parking on grass or driving on the sidewalks… It’s just little things like that that compromise the beauty of the campus.”
“The campus has been constructed as a walking campus. Gradually over the years we’ve removed the roadways that bisect campus. We’ve been pushing, even before I got here, the parking areas to the perimeter so you don’t have parking in the middle of the campus,” said Urgo about his vision for St. Mary’s. “The idea is that once you arrive on campus, you walk everywhere. It emphasizes the sort of pastoral, studious setting of a college. It also emphasizes the wellness that we stress here. People should be out and about walking instead of driving.”
There are several rumors flying around campus about plans to build an off-campus parking garage down Route 5 to move parking completely off campus. “I’ve heard rumors of us building a parking garage. We’re not doing that,” said Urgo with a laugh. “The Campus Center parking lot is going to be expanded pretty far up the road as part of the Anne Arundel project. An underground parking garage is not going to come to the campus.”
Since the increase in enforcement hit the college, it has received mixed reactions from faculty and students. “I think the downside of the whole thing is that last semester because of all the disruptions, we just didn’t enforce a lot of parking regulations and now we’re back on it pretty hot and heavy,” said Dave Zylak, Director of Public Safety. “It’s caused us to get some comments from students. It is what it is, I’m afraid.”
“I think that there are other things that the school could be focusing on right now than cars parked in the wrong spots,” said Bridgette Brunk, sophomore.
Not all students see it as negative, however. “I don’t really see it as much of an obstacle. As long as PS gives fair warning, it seems justified,” said senior Tricia Byers.
The current policy on towing is that any abandoned vehicle may be issued a citation and/or towed when it meets the criteria laid out in the “To The Point” Student Handbook. Public Safety gives four parking citations before towing through T&R Towing with a $60 towing fee, payable through cash or via a parent’s credit card, company policy because of issues in the past with student credit cards.
“We tow on the fourth citation. You get three free chances to basically park illegally before you get towed. The big thing is fire lanes; we have to keep the fire lanes open so you could get towed quicker if you park in a fire lane,” said Zylak.
Public Safety reminds students to park in their usual spots and to be wary of parking regulations. “I would just tell students to be cognizant of where they’re parking, even if it’s what they think is a short period of time. Look for signs that say whether you can or can’t park there and if you have a sticker… stay in that lot.”
“I hope that students understand the motive behind this,” said Urgo. “It’s not to make their lives more difficult… [St. Mary’s is] not an urban center, it’s a pastoral college campus.”