TRAVERSE CITY -- A leisurely, scenic parking spot during the National Cherry Festival could cost some visitors a lot more this year.
Local officials said they'll target motor homes and large recreational vehicles that frequently line up along Bay Street during the annual festival, particularly during air show years. They currently risk a $15 ticket for overnight stays, but many choose that relatively cheap option for a bayside perch.
Traverse City commissioners this week approved a parking ordinance amendment that sets ticket amounts for overnight campers at $100 for a first offense, increasing by $25 for subsequent violations up to $175.
It's a good move, said Curt Lichty, who lives on Second Street, just around the corner from Bay Street.
Motor home drivers often park in front of his home and while some leave after a day, others set up for a couple of days, he said.
"A dude last summer parked his motor home here and you could not see the water. I pay taxes for all this," Lichty said.
It's true that Bay Street is prime real estate during the National Cherry Festival, said Sid Lammers, owner of Trend Window and Design on Bay Street.
"People stake out a spot and it's like a tailgate party," he said.
Lammers said he prefers increased ticket amounts to closing the street or towing vehicles, both of which he's seen done.
Some treat Bay Street like a campground, Lichty said, and open sun-blocking awnings and make a home of the grassy area between Bay Street and Grandview Parkway. He's seen some return to their motor homes, find a $15 ticket, yet stay the day.
A $15 daily ticket is not much of a deterrent, particularly when compared to fees to stay at area campgrounds, said Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes.
"City streets are intended for transient parkers and people were using it for an extended period of time," Estes said. "It's not going to be cheap anymore."
Long stays have been a problem for years, especially when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels do flight demonstrations above Grand Traverse Bay, said city Commissioner Jim Carruthers. People jockey for the "upfront spots" on Bay Street and tend to stay until they are finished with the festival, he said.
Carruthers said he once counted 18 motor homes or RVs on Bay Street.
Motorists may continue to temporarily park on Bay Street during the festival, but those who stay overnight will have to dig much deeper into their wallets.