Friday, June 29, 2012

Borough Council acts to raise parking fines for first time in decades

If you forget to feed a nickel or a dime into a parking meter in Elizabethtown, the parking ticket issued by police will run you $5 today. That's a bargain.
It has been more than 40 years since Elizabethtown Borough Council has raised the fines for parking tickets. If you take into account inflation, a parking ticket today would cost you $28.

Also consider the parking fines for a meter violation in other nearby boroughs: Lititz, $10; Manheim, $15; and Mount Joy $20.

Last week, Elizabethtown Borough Council took a first step to raising parking fines. On a unanimous vote, council approved advertising an ordinance that will increase the fines.

After the ordinance has been advertised, council can then approve it, which could happen as early as next month.

This discussion about parking fines brings to mind ongoing comments about parking in downtown Elizabethtown. I was a bit taken aback after corresponding with a resident who said she and her family rarely patronize Subway or E-Yuan, the Chinese restaurant, on Market  Street because of parking.

Since then, I have taken a number of trips downtown to check on parking. One morning at about 11:00, I found ample space on either side of Market Street from the post office to the square -- to the point one wouldn't have needed to parallel park. I also saw multiple parking spaces in all of the municipal lots. One Thursday, I attended one of the Downtown Lunch Series where there were definitely more people on the square, and I found a space in the lot off East High Street.

Then, a resident told me last Friday that he and his family ate at the new Pita Pit for dinner. It was jammed with people, and unsolicited this person told me parking in front of the restaurant was wide open.

Finally, just yesterday my wife picked up lunch at E-Yuan for her staff in an office at Elizabethtown College recently and was able to park right in front of the restaurant.

I understand these are anecdotal. And I'm not naive enough to think that other people might have difficulties at time finding parking. The fact is, it's not as big a problem as some people make it out.

Friday, June 22, 2012

E-town Boys Club hosts baseball tournaments this summer

For the first time, the Elizabethtown Boys Club is hosting baseball tournaments this summer for youth baseball under the title "Battle for the Bears Cup."

EBC is jumping in with both feet and holding four tournaments for various age groups: 8U, 9U, 10U and 11U. The first tournament, featuring 10U players, starts this weekend.

Scott Schneider, one of the directors for the 9U tournament, said teams from throughout south central Pennsylvania -- Juniata County, Chambersburg, Hershey, Palmyra -- and as far as Reading, Exton and Maryland will be traveling to Elizabethtown over four weekends.

Just this weekend alone, six teams will compete. That means dozens of players and families will be in town and will have a chance to visit local businesses.

Here's a schedule for the rest of the tournaments:
Although my son didn't make the all-star team, I had a blast watching him develop and improve his baseball skills this season. With some of the top players from the region coming to down, there's a good chance to see some great youth baseball.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Where is municipal parking in downtown Elizabethtown?

View Municipal Parking in Elizabethtown in a larger map

After my recent post about a possible downtown renaissance,  a lively discussion ensued on LinkedIn about parking in Elizabethtown. Then a resident asked me to post a map of the available municipal parking. So with the technological magic of Google Maps, I've created this map to highlight just the lots that the borough owns. I have some other thoughts about parking and plan another post in the near future, but for the time being feel free to share this map.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Bear Creek School Experience, Year 1

This school year, the Elizabethtown Area School District opened its new Bear Creek School, consolidating all fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in one building. Now that it almost has a full school year completed, I'd like to share some thoughts from my perspective as a parent of a fifth-grader.

As with any new building, the start of the school year posed some challenges with busing and a strange odor that caused school to be canceled for one day. And, as district Superintendent Michele Balliet, likes to say, that doesn't account for epic flooding that closed school for a day in September and a freak late-October snowstorm.

After sorting through the challenges, I think Bear Creek found its legs and took off running. At least that's been our son's experience. We have found teachers and staff to be friendly and professional. More important, they have progressively provided more challenging opportunities -- in reading, math and trombone lessons and band -- for our son without our urging. He has responded well to the challenges. In my mind, that's what public school is all about.

Now, let me say that this has been one family's experience with one student. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section about your experiences -- good, bad or indifferent. Given that Bear Creek has 900-some students, I'm sure every family has a slightly different take.

During Bear Creek's planning stages, Borough Council went on record as opposing the location of the school. The primary reason was because there was no walking connection and that the vast majority of students would be bussed there. We were concerned about increased traffic from buses and the dozens of parents who would be dropping off and picking up their students each day. The school district did construct a walking path that connects Bear Creek to the E-town Fairgrounds (which the district owns).

Generally, I think everything has worked well. That said, there's one improvement I'd like to see. Mount Joy Township should widen Bear Creek Road road and install sidewalks at least on one side. Until I started dropping off my son early a few mornings a week, I never realized just how many pedestrians use the road. I've encountered dog walkers, runners, exercise walkers and bicyclists. I've run a number of times there myself. Given the sheer volume of traffic and the pedestrians, it would be a boon to safety to make these improvements.

So now I'll pose the question to you: What improvements would you like to see at Bear Creek School now that it's a year old?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

21st annual Downtown Summer Lunch Series

For reasons out of my control, I've had the chance to attend the Downtown Summer Lunch Series this year. Having worked in either Harrisburg or Lancaster, I was always bummed that I wasn't in town over lunch to attend.

If the first two weeks of this year's series is any indication, I had good reason to be bummed. On May 24, Elizabethtown College's Birdfeeder food truck served up sandwiches and french fries, and last Thursday the Pita Pit served its sandwiches. Weather has been great, and entertainment -- provided by high school students and a Tim Rinard with his acoustic guitar playing covers of hit songs.

A function of the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce, the series is held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday until July 26 on the southeast quadrant of Center Square (right by Game Traders). The lunch series features a local restaurant that sells some of its food. Local groups and artists, including some student groups from local schools, provide entertainment (shameless plug: My son Nat will be playing trombone this Thursday as part of a student group from Bear Creek School).

Admission is free, although if you want to eat you'll have to pony up and buy something. But it won't cost you a cent if you want to sit under the umbrellas on the square and listen to the music. Every week, you'll have a free chance to win a fruit basket donated by the Masonic Village Farm Market. The catch is that you have to be present to win!

If you're in town on Thursdays through the end of July, I strongly encourage you to come out and support the downtown (unfortunately, I have a job interview out of town this Thursday and won't be here). I'd also recommend splurging after lunch and getting some ice cream from J's Sweet Treats Ice Cream Parlor, located just around the corner on East High Street. It was well worth the extra cash and calories!

Here's the schedule for the rest of the 21st annual Downtown Summer Lunch Series:

June 7 -- Lunch: Ella's Place (former E-town Diner). Entertainment: Students from Bear Creek School.

June 14 -- Lunch: Papa John's. Entertainment: M&K Duo.

June 21 -- Lunch: Hoss's Steak & Sea House. Entertainment: Dave Wilson.

June 28 -- Lunch: Pizza Hut. Entertainment: Derek Sandstrom Jazz Sax.

July 5 -- Lunch: Elizabethtown Family Moose Center 596. Entertainment: Voxology.

July 12 -- Lunch: Darrenkamp's. Entertainment: Saxology.

July 19 -- Lunch: Giant. Entertainment: Jay Smar.

July 26 -- Lunch: Three Loaves Cafe. Entertainment: Fire in the Glen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Is Elizabethtown experiencing a downtown renaissance?

A couple of months ago, local businessman Andrew Schoenberger came to a Borough Council meeting to discuss a new initiative he and two other businesspeople started called Market Street Improving Business.

Schoenberger, who owns Epic Photography, Lisa Clemens from the Lynden Gallery and Brad Alexander from the soon-to-open Pita Pit joined forces to start this organization focused on building up business in downtown Elizabethtown. A native of the borough, Schoenberger said he remembers as he grew up that his family didn't have to venture outside of town for lots of shopping.

"We have a feeling a lot of people want that back," he said.

The new organization, for which the organizers are seeking nonprofit status, will provide support to downtown businesses and also help bring some ideas to fruition. Schoenberger mentioned a town map of businesses, bringing a farmer's market to town and having events downtown.

In addition to Market Street Improving Business, the downtown area could be on the verge of a renaissance, with new a number of businesses having opened or planned.

Consider that J's Sweet Treats, a bakery featuring all sorts of cakes, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and pastries that opened this spring has expanded already. Located on the southeast corner of the square, owner Jodi Stapler has moved the kitchen for the bakery into a neighboring storefront on the square. And in the past week or so, she just opened an ice cream parlor in the neighboring storefront on East High Street.

Last year, a used book store called Pages opened next to Folklore Coffee & Co. on the northeast side of the square. I ventured in for the first time in April in search of a birthday present for my wife, and I was duly impressed with the quality, condition and selection of the books. Check out this great story that WGAL's Meredith Jorgensen did about Pages last fall.

And what about Andrew Douglas Jewelers? After several years without a jeweler in downtown, this business recently opened.

This coming week, the Pita Pit is slated to open in a portion of the former Elizabethtown Hotel. The owners provided the food for last Thursday's installment of the Downtown Summer Lunch Series. They said opening is pending inspections, and they were hoping to open as early as Tuesday.

That's not all that's happening at the former hotel. Sean Cavanaugh, owner of John J. Jeffries, an upscale restaurant located at the Lancaster Arts Hotel, has plans to open a similar eatery there. Cavanaugh's approach is to prepare fresh, seasonal and organic food. To learn more, take a listen to an interview with him on the Lancast.