Julia Shumway
The Bulletin

The heaviest February snowfall in 118 years might have seemed like a good time for Bend to declare a snow emergency, which would have temporarily prohibited parking on several city streets. But the city chose not to, leading to complaints about dangerous road conditions.

Bend’s emergency parking restrictions were introduced after the record-setting winter of 2016, which saw nearly 60 inches of snow fall during multiple storms. Low temperatures allowed that snow to stick around for several days, leaving unwieldy piles in yards and along curbs.

On some heavily used streets, people began to park their cars farther from snowbound curbs, shrinking lanes of travel. Meanwhile, the proliferation of parked cars prevented plows from removing snow and widening affected roads.

To prevent such problems in the future, the city started a pilot program that would create snow-based parking restrictions on several streets downtown and near St. Charles Bend and Oregon State University’s Cascades campus. When a snow emergency is declared, parking in affected areas is prohibited until 12 hours have passed or a plow has cleared the road from curb to curb. Signs along these streets warn people not to park during such events.

Affected streets are Wall, Bond, Portland, NW Broadway and 17th streets, Chandler, NE Conners and NW Tumalo avenues, and NE Courtney Drive.

The city’s decision not to declare an emergency last month led to parking problems along SW Chandler Avenue that were worse than they were in 2016, said Johnita Callan, chief financial officer and marketing director for Callan Accounting Services. The street has been almost impassible, Callan said, particularly where people have to turn onto Yates Drive to reach her business.

“One car can hardly make it through, and with two, it’s almost impossible,” Callan said. “It’s tax season for us, and we’re trying to get people in and out of here safely.”

The city chose not to declare a snow emergency because last month’s storm was short-lived, said David Abbas, the city’s streets and operations director.

“Last time was back-to-back storms over weeks, whereas this one was one four-day event,” he said. “The real estate on the roads kept shrinking (in the 2016-17 winter).”

Callan said she wishes Abbas had driven down Chandler Avenue every day to see what it was like.

Alternatively, she said, OSU-Cascades could have taken the lead and told people to avoid parking on both sides of the street or waived its parking lot fees. Many of those who park along Chandler are connected with the university.

“It seems like they could have been better neighbors,” Callan said.

Staff at OSU-Cascades worked overtime to clear its parking lot and roads, spokeswoman Christine Coffin said. However, the campus did not waive its parking fees, which are $1 per hour or $3 per day for students, employees and visitors.

The storm did not create similar problems everywhere.

Near St. Charles in Bend, people avoided parking on NE Courtney Drive and NE Conners Avenue despite the absence of a snow-emergency declaration, said Ken Koenig, the chief operations officer for Partners in Care. Plows made it down the two streets, and employees, patients and families were able to get to the hospice facility.

“It went well,” Koenig said. “People by and large were pretty observant of the need to not park around there.”

It was a big improvement on the 2016-17 winter, when the company spent its own time and resources plowing a clear path and cars stayed parked on Courtney and Conners, he said.

In downtown Bend, parking fees were waived for the parking garage for several days in an attempt to keep vehicles from parking on the streets. City spokeswoman Anne Aurand described the downtown area as fairly quiet and said parking spaces remained available.

The city did consider declaring a snow emergency last month, but Abbas said he recommended against it because snowplows were able to clear the nine affected roads without needing cars to move.

But an emergency declaration could happen in the near future.

“If we were to get some additional storms and we still have the snowbanks we have now, we might need to declare it,” Abbas said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com