Canton's drivers cast lot with Safeway

With parking scarce, they leave cars at grocery store

The Snowstorm Of 2003

February 20, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

There has been quite a line at the Safeway supermarket on Boston Street in Canton the past several days. And it's not shoppers stocking up on milk, eggs or toilet paper.

No, these people are after something far more precious - and scarce.

"I have food. What I really needed is a parking space," said Dara Hewat, 24, after he docked his dark blue truck near a row of shopping carts.

The struggle to free cars from the more than 2 feet of snow that smothered the region is being closely followed by the equally frustrating chore of finding a place to park. Banks of snow along Annapolis' Main Street prohibited curb parking and created logjams at parking garages.

In Baltimore, the closing of schools has opened lots for parking, and the city government has given residents in the Little Italy Community Organization a free 48-hour parking pass at the city garage on Bank Street and Central Avenue. A large parking garage in Federal Hill has been a help there.

However, the snow-clogged streets have brought a new level of desperation to Canton, where parking is a headache under the best of circumstances.

Ever since the snow began falling, the freshly plowed lots at businesses such as the Safeway along Boston Street and Burger King nearby at Eastern Avenue have become Canton's not-so-closely guarded secret: havens where residents can stash their cars without fear of being buried again by a city snowplow.

"Everybody else is doing it. It's the only parking lot open [in Canton]," said Chris Smith, a 25-year-old Canton resident who carried his good leather shoes in a plastic bag as he sloshed through the supermarket parking lot's slush in boots.

Yesterday, the Safeway lot was packed at 9 a.m., an hour when it is normally half full or less. Most people who left cars there said they either lived on narrow streets that had not been plowed yet or on major roads where parking is forbidden so that snow-removal vehicles can come through.

While the Safeway, which is next to the Can Company commercial stretch, has one of the biggest parking lots in the area, resourceful residents are not only parking there and at the Burger King, but also at the Royal Farms on Fleet Street.

Ever since the Safeway's lot was first plowed Sunday evening, word has spread quickly. On Tuesday at 10:30 p.m., people were circling the lot looking for a precious parking space.

The Safeway lot's popularity is causing the store headaches. The crush of parkers is snarling traffic, getting in the way of further snow removal, and taking spots from shoppers and employees, store management says.

A security guard spent much of yesterday directing traffic, trying to weed out people who were poaching parking spots. "You shopping here? Park over there!" she barked at drivers.

A sign was posted in the store entrance yesterday: "All vehicles that have been parked in our lot the last 3 days will be towed starting @ 12 noon," it read.

"We don't want to tow cars and create havoc. We were hoping the sign would get word out there so we can finish plowing," said Greg Ten Eyck, the store's director of public affairs.

While Ten Eyck said there have been other instances of city residents turning store lots into public parking areas, "this is the only store which has caused so much commotion."

Some residents admit to feeling slightly guilty about taking the store's parking spots. After he pulled into the lot, Ethan Long thought twice before setting out for home on Fleet Street.

"Maybe I'll go in and get a cup of coffee first," Long said. "At least then I can say I was a customer."

Sun staff writers Kory Dodd, Doug Donovan and Tanika White contributed to this article.

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