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You can't park there: New signage, more enforcement puts teeth into school no parking zone

There's little questioning that a section of Colfax Ave. next to the WDC Elementary School is closed for parking during school hours. New signs being installed soon should also help make that message clear. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 2
The Wadena Police Department hopes to make more clear the areas where parking is and is not allowed around the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. These temporary signs have been placed with new permanent signs coming soon. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 2

You're running late for work, you've got to get the kids dropped off at school and you don't have time to walk from a block away. Yes, those signs on Colfax next to the elementary school may say no parking, but everybody's doing it. Well, not anymore.

Starting this school year, the Wadena Police Department will be enforcing the no parking and they hope to soon have new signage to help those who are not familiar with parking in the school zone.

Wadena Police Chief Naomi Plautz just met with MnDOT Thursday, Sept. 13, to go over where new signage will be going along the stretch of Colfax Ave. next to the WDC Elementary School. She said currently you can find five different types of signs indicating parking regulations during school hours. While there is notice, the signs were not exactly followed.

"They are all over the place," Plautz said. "It just wasn't enforced."

So for years, people have been parking there. Several concerned residents contacted Plautz about the fact that with so many cars parked there and with some vehicles far overshadowing the kids entering the school, it was time to open the field of view. That was especially true for the area where student crossing guards are attempting to notify traffic that someone needs to cross. If the crossing guards can't see past the cars and the cars can't see the crossing guards, there's a problem, Plautz agreed.

Plautz started working with MnDOT, the city and the school months ago to plan for changes in parking and crossings. The no parking area will continue to be on the school side on the west half of Colfax and small spot where two cars could once park on the north side of Colfax, in order to allow open view for crossing guards stationed there. That no parking will be enforced during school hours, Plautz said.

What you'll see in coming months are new signs "as big as they legally can," Plautz said, that say no parking during school hours (about 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.)

"Hopefully everybody abides by that, otherwise we'll be giving tickets," she added.

There will remain parking to the east along the principal entrance and handicap parking spots will remain open.

Another big change you'll see next year are LED lit signs at pedestrian crossings. The lights will be engaged at the touch of a button by pedestrians looking to cross, so traffic gets extra notice of pedestrians—especially in low-light settings. New brighter street lights are also being installed to make the area more visible in low-light periods.

Plautz said the plan is for the city and school to cost share for those signs. Those signs will appear at the old lighted crossing on Colfax and at Colfax and Fifth Street where an officer now assists pedestrians in crossing from the Middle/High School to M State College.