Pros and cons of more parking lots

Kelly Smith

As I mentioned in a previous article, sometimes all you need to form an opinion about something is to read about what else is happening at GVSU. There’s been a recent article by Lucas Escalada about how students are proposing to have more parking lots established. No doubt many students would support such a proposal, and it’s clear that having more empty parking spaces will certainly give drivers more space to get in and out of parking spaces, if they can find one. So should we simply declare it to be necessary and call in the asphalt? Not necessarily. Let’s take some time to think everything through, first.

I’m bringing this up because I took “Great Lakes & Other Water Resources” this past fall. A study about our local water resources included what we have here at GV. I have to say, I definitely have a greater appreciation now for things such as erosion, water runoff and their effect on water and sand dunes. The fact that GV is situated literally next to a valley makes erosion so much more important.

Why does erosion occur? Runoff. What’s a big culprit for allowing runoff? Blacktop parking lots. We don’t want Fresh Foods to eventually fall into the ravine, do we? The greatest way to prevent runoff is to keep the water from running down into the valley by trapping it somewhere. GV already has made many installments toward this objective, such as green roofs and rain gardens. With water not only being kept from the ravine but also being used to grow plants, we have made two beneficial accomplishments.

However, even without rain gardens and green roofs, excess water can still be absorbed by the grass. Putting in more asphalt parking lots would be tearing up the grass and replacing it with a very smooth surface for water to flow. Therefore, we can’t just say “Go for it” without examining the potential future threats it opens. I know that we have sewers, but we can’t rely on those to get all excess water off the streets. We can’t completely prevent runoff, but we can certainly reduce it.

What am I getting at? Am I opposed to students having more room to park? Absolutely not! In fact, that’s be great. All I’m saying is that, given my recent study of this topic, we should consider something different than typical asphalt. There’s always pervious pavement, which still allows water to infiltrate the ground while giving drivers a smooth space to drive on. According to my lab instructor, GV already has certain areas with pervious pavement that can be distinguished from the standard blacktop, especially on a rainy day by the level of water.

All in all, I’m all for more parking spaces, but we need to take these things into account. I’m not guaranteeing a lower cost than asphalt, but preventing runoff and keeping our buildings and ravine secure are of the utmost importance. I hope that all of this is brought up when and if the proposal for more lots is taken into consideration.