CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- County leaders are working to address parking concerns at a popular Charlotte park, after concerns reached a breaking point last weekend.
Former city councilman, Kenny Smith, described last weekend's experience at the park as "absolute chaos."
"In previous years, the county had allowed folks to park on the main drive on the way in," Smith said Monday, "which would allow you to have maybe 80 to 90 more parking spaces. This past weekend, they allowed half of it to be used but not the other half."
County leaders said it was blocked off due to standing water in some of the grassy areas, which was caused by an ongoing drainage issue at the park.
"Right now, there are a lot of drainage issues at Freedom Park and that's why some of those grassy spots where people are used to parking have been roped off this year," said County Commissioner for District 5 Matthew Ridenhour.
He said Monday that he first emailed county leaders about complaints regarding parking, at the end of March, after receiving a significant amount of feedback from consituents.
"Truth be told, I've heard more about parking at Freedom Park in the last four or five weeks than I have in the last five years I've served on the commission," Ridenhour said.
He met with parks and recreation department leaders at Freedom in the following weeks, and they're currently working together to find a solution. Among them, staggering game start times to minimize congestion, in addition to laying down a special product over flood-prone, grassy areas.
"And then plant new grass on top of that, and this product will allow some better drainage," Ridenhour explained, "and then that would allow cars to park on top of the new grass."
Smith said Saturday's parking issues were made worse by the fact that a "lot full" sign was placed in front of a lot that wasn't full at all, causing back-ups and forcing parents to park off site.
He remembers what it was like as a local government official and he's hoping this problem doesn't fall victim to business as usual.
"With my citizen hat on, I just wanna know the answer, and then with my local government hat on, they work for us. I'd like to see them find a solution that works, that can accomodate the use of the fields and the number of folks who come to the ball games," Smith said.
Ridenhour seemed optimistic Monday about finding a solution in a timely manner.
"I'm very confident that we'll find a solution this weekend," he said. "I'm not interested in a five-year solution at this point. I want something more immediate."