Increased enrollment creates parking dilemma at Saddleback

The parking lots are often filled to capacity at Saddleback College. (Claire Cote)

Claire Cote

Although midterms are here, it is not just exams that are making students grimace. This semester marks the worst and longest-lasting parking problem at Saddleback College in recent years.

Usually, our school parking lots are only crowded for the first three to four weeks of a new semester. But this time, traffic continues to clog the campus even now, eight weeks into classes.

“[With enrollment up this semester] we are definitely seeing a lot of congestion,” said Harry Parmer, Saddleback’s chief of police. “There’s really no way around it. We have large-volume parking lots and when so many students are utilizing them at the same time, traffic is inevitable.”

Because the campus lots are so packed, many students have resorted to off-campus parking, even at the Shops at Mission Viejo, where signs clearly warn against it. Others are known to creepily stalk those just getting out of classes in order to find a place to park.

“Although we deal with illegal parking every semester, there has been an increase in violations,” Parmer said, “especially students parking in staff lots.”

Students all over campus have continued to voice complaints, and many joke that parking at Saddleback has become a new blood sport.

“This is a real problem,” said Tyler Fischbeck, 21, business economics. “Parking at Saddleback is horrendous and needs to be fixed.”

Parking coordinators as well as the police department at Saddleback are working with Saddleback President Tod Burnett to remedy this on-going dilemma. A new road to circle the campus has been planned, and separate lots for staff and students could be in the works as well.

“Plans for the new road have been in the master plan for decades,” Parmer said. “It would relieve a lot of traffic on College Drive E, and I’m strongly pushing for its establishment.”

But these updates may take longer than any of us would like. Sufficient funds for such a project could take years to obtain.

“Resources are always an issue,” Parmer said. “Saddleback may not see that road until after I retire. But as for independent staff and student parking lots, they could be implemented by fall 2009.”

Although most students stress about finding a place to park and making it to class on time, there are the lucky ones who have no parking drama at all.

“There’s always a spot waiting for me when I get to campus,” said Brandon McCarthy, 19, music.

Guess it is just the luck of the draw, and all the unlucky ones will be forced to continue their morning routine of breakfast, freeway, and blood sport.