KINGSTON – The University of Rhode Island will allow the Kingston Free Library to retain four of its six longstanding parking spaces in the Gateway Apartments Complex — at least for the next nine months.
The decision to reclaim all six parkings spaces came earlier this summer, amidst the university’s reconstruction of Upper College Road, and had been a major cause for concern among community members and the South Kingstown Library Board of Trustees.
The handful of spaces in question have been reserved for the Kingston Free Library for more then three decades, according to South Kingstown Library Board of Trustees President Timothy Murphy, per an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
Though six parking spaces might not seem like much on paper, the library already suffers limited parking availability. In previous town council meetings, Murphy has expressed major concern that losing this small handful of parking spots could dramatically reduce patronage, and thus, call into question the library’s future.
In response to these calls for alarm, the town was able to set up a meeting with university representatives concerning the impending loss of parking spaces. According to Murphy, “the meeting was a frank and productive discussion, resulting in several suggestions for all sides to explore to resolve this problem.” Given the amount of time all those explorations will take, however, Murphy made a request to URI President David M. Dooley, and incoming President Marc Parlange, “that the university delay its plan to take back the six parking spaces.”
Last week, while bringing this issue to the attention of the town council once more, Murphy was able to learn from Town Council President Abel Collins that the university has in fact granted this delay. According to acting Town Manager Terry Murphy, the university sent the email soon after the council’s work session had gotten underway that evening.
Over the next nine months, through the end of June 2022, the university will allow patrons of the Kingston Free Library to continue using four of the six spaces in the Gateway Apartment Complex.
“I’m not sure what to say to that,” Murphy told council members last week, “other than a little bit is better than nothing. There’s still room, in my opinion, for pushing ahead and trying to get those six spaces permanently dedicated for library parking.”
Although there’s been some resolution to the situation, Murphy is urging community members, as well as the town council, to continue pressing the university on this issue.
“Perhaps we can do a little bit better than what’s being offered at this point,” he said.
Similar to past meetings, Murphy pointed out that the Village of Kingston, and the Kingston Free Library has thrown its support behind the public university on numerous occasions.
The university has also been very supportive and “a good neighbor to the Kingston Free Library,” according to Assistant Director of Communications Dave Lavallee, “by being able to provide library patron and staff parking on university property to access the library for many years.”
During those years, however, the student population has risen considerably. In the last decade alone, enrollment numbers have grown by more than 1,300 students, according to Lavallee, who either live on campus or commute each day.
During that same amount of time, the university has increased its parking by less than 400 spaces. The Gateway Apartments, which house 83 students, but only offer 66 parking spaces, are at full capacity for the coming year.
“The next closest resident student parking lot is 1.3 miles away,” Lavallee shared in an email communication last week.
The improvements currently happening on Upper College Road are being made in the interest of public safety, and in an effort to prevent future accidents.
“One of the main goals of the new project is to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists,” Lavallee wrote. “The Upper College Road project separates bicycles and pedestrians from vehicles and removes parking, a major factor in accidents.”
These accommodations to the Kingston Library are being made on a temporary basis, according to Lavallee, and are being extended “in a spirit of neighborliness, and trust it will be of assistance to the library and its patrons.”