TAHOE/TRUCKEE - Old town Truckee was once well on its way to becoming a fine example of western hospitality. You could ride into town, hitch your horse or wagon anywhere, mosey around, get your supplies and feel welcome, like everyone in town should feel. A friendly community was everyone's top priority. Well, almost everyone. Truckee had more than its fair share of gun slinging back in the old days.
Then, paid parking was installed and a new commotion began.
On the surface, the idea of paid parking to promote business seems diametrically opposed to common sense and good manners. If the intent is to welcome people, the last thing you want to do is make them pay for showing up. We don't invite people over for dinner and then say, "Oh, by the way, that'll be $25 each." Shouldn't the town's parking policy reflect the same values we try to live by in our private lives?
That all depends on how much money it costs, and even free parking costs money.
Last year I spoke with Dan Wilkins, Public Works Director for the town Of Truckee, and more or less promised him I'd put in my two cents worth on the parking controversy, which seems to have died down since then. It has been a long time since there have been any letters to the editor about parking problems, but, apparently, a car was ticketed, or towed, for parking at the post office in the wee hours of the morning. Towing, or ticketing a car at two in the morning, makes no sense. At that hour it is hard to imagine that one parking violation would prevent someone from checking their mail.
What Mr. Wilkins was most concerned about was the popular notion that parking is, or should be, automatically free. The one thing he most wants us to know is that it is not free, even when it's "free." The town of Truckee spends a total of a half million dollars every year on land lease agreements with the Union Pacific Railroad and local private businesses, as well as other expenses, so they can, among other things, provide free, and paid, parking.
Without paid parking, that cost, which we already help pay for when we buy from certain stores, would have to be recovered from us in other ways. It would not be fair if the entire financial burden for parking fell on business owners.
There was a bronze plaque mounted in stone beside the railroad tracks at the Truckee Train Depot, dedicated to the memory of Ignatius Joseph Firpo. The memorial was in temporary storage until an appropriate new location for it can be found. Hopefully it has, or will, end up in a place of equal prominence. The words of Mr. Firpo engraved upon it are well worth reading, and living by. Those words are, "What we have done for ourselves dies with us; what we have done for others remains and is immortal."
It would be nice to return to a simpler time, or progress into a blissful utopia where everything is free, the community is in perfect harmony and you don't get punished for being there, your car never gets towed, and angry, hostile words between neighbors are a thing of the past; where there's nothing but old fashioned, small town hospitality. But that kind of world is impossible unless people on both sides of any controversy (parking, dogs, etc.) give the other side the benefit of the doubt and live by the wise words of Ignatius Firpo.
Wherever we stand, whatever the issue, we need to ensure that common courtesy and genuine western hospitality don't become things of the past. Only an ornery old, wild west gunslinger would say, "Get out partner, this town ain't big enough for the two of us".
Hopefully Mr. Firpo's words have since been taken to heart, and Truckee has returned to a more close-knit, friendly and hospitable community.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.