SEAS club protests parking as new parking garage is approved

Oct. 8, 2012

Eleanor Skelton
[email protected]

Between Osborne Hall and Kramer Family Library on the morning of Friday, Sept. 21, a group of students camped in a parking space lined with blankets, beaded pillows and potted plants.

Club members from the Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability (SEAS) camped from 7-10 a.m. as a peaceful protest to raise awareness about the issues surrounding parking on campus and to attempt to offer solutions from a new perspective.

The co-chairs of the club, Andrea Hassler, a graduate geography student, and Hillary Fuller, a senior geography and environmental studies major, sat on pillows between a bicycle, sporting a banner and a leashed dog.

Other protesters asked passersby to fill out a transportation survey intended to evaluate how commuter students travel to campus while offering complimentary bagels and buttons that read, “I don’t need a war to power my bicycle.”

Carole Huber, a senior geography and environmental studies instructor and the faculty advisor for SEAS, was also present, handing out surveys and talking with bystanders.

“National Parking Day is actually an international event where people basically occupy parking spots to raise awareness about the amount of public space that is donated to parking lots instead of things like parks,” Hassler said. “If more people were to, essentially, use alternative transportation like bikes or buses, we would not need as many parking spaces.”

She said that most of the protesters transported the items that occupied the parking space on their bicycles. “We just kind of made it into a chill spot instead of a park.”

SEAS spoke with school officials prior to the demonstration. “We talked to public safety [and] we have a parking pass here, we just don’t have a car in it,” Hassler explained.

Students who chose to participate in the survey were invited to place a sticker on a city map showing where they live in relation to the campus.

Hassler hoped that the club could use the information obtained to argue that students should be eligible for free or discounted bus passes. “It’s something that we’ve talked to the city about before, but we haven’t set up a system yet,” she said.

On Sept. 24, UCCS announced in a press release that the CU Board of Regents approved a new parking garage near Alpine Village and the Recreational Center projected to contain 1,200 spaces and an athletic field on the highest level in an effort to add more places for exercise to the campus.

“This will be a unique parking facility, one that is built to standards for sustainability and that serves the needs for commuting faculty and staff as well as for students who live on campus and who want to have more recreational space,” said Susan Szpyrka, senior associate vice chancellor of Administration and Finance, in the press release.

SEAS club members believe this decision may not be a truly sustainable choice for UCCS.

Hassler considered the issue from a geological perspective, saying, “I like the idea of this new parking garage in that it is a practical solution to two issues UCCS [is] concerned with: parking and recreation. … However, I always take approval of new development with caution, particularly at UCCS where our soils are highly erosive.”

Huber agreed with Hassler. “I would like to see the campus put more effort into promoting alternative modes of transportation,” she said.

“Traffic congestion already makes it challenging (life-threatening for cyclists such as myself) to leave campus at certain times of day; I can’t imagine what another 1,200 cars on main campus will look like.”

“I feel strongly that UCCS should be a model of sustainability for our students, our city and our region,” Huber said. “Let’s increase support for alternative solutions rather than facilitate increased SOV [single occupancy vehicle] travel.”