No one at a Deering Center neighborhood meeting Saturday in Portland disagreed that parking has become a problem on and around Stevens Avenue in recent years.

On most weekdays, it is bumper-to-bumper parking along the quarter-mile stretch on Stevens Avenue fronting the historic Evergreen Cemetery, the state’s largest burial ground, which is frequented by birders and docent-led semiweekly public tours.

But what to do about it was the subject of an hourlong discussion among 30 residents, several city and University of New England officials, as well as City Councilors David Brenerman and Justin Costa, on how to alleviate the parking crunch without merely moving the problem onto side streets as displaced parkers search for other on-street spots.

The consensus at the end of the meeting was to entice, cajole or coerce University of New England students to start using a remote parking lot on Bishop Street and look at setting stricter time limits or eliminating some on-street parking.

“It’s a beautiful area but it turns into a giant parking lot,” said John Thibodeau of Preserve Deering Neighborhood, a neighborhood group that organized the meeting.

Residents said the congestion and parking issues have been growing gradually but got a boost in the past decade as UNE expanded its Stevens Avenue campus, home to 900 students and burgeoning dental and pharmacy programs. They said now they are concerned about the impact a planned 249-unit senior housing development on the site of the historic Sisters of Mercy convent on Stevens Avenue will have on the congestion.

The offending parkers, many of them students at UNE, clog the public spots that line Stevens Avenue and the entrance road into the 239-acre graveyard. Some cemetery parkers have been spotted sprinting between gravestones to get to campus. Others have been observed driving over graves and private lawns to get out after the cemetery gates are locked at night. The situation makes it unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists and degrades the solemn aesthetic of the cemetery, residents said.

Mark Nahorney, UNE director of community relations, said the university has worked with the city and neighborhood to alleviate the congestion.

Nahorney said that a parking garage would be too expensive and the university doesn’t currently have any plans to build one.

There are 900 parking spaces on or near the campus, including 268 spaces at a lot on Bishop Street that is a 10-minute walk away and is served by shuttle bus, according to the university. The Bishop Street lot will be expanded by 187 spaces later this year.

The lot features a lighted warming station and a shuttle to campus every five to six minutes. The problem is that students prefer to park on the street and the lot remains largely unused.

“Human nature is in operation here,” said Nahorney.

John Peverada, city’s parking manager, agreed. He said Maine Medical Center created all sorts of remote parking for its employees, but they continue to park on the street at the risk of parking tickets and parking boots.

Attendees suggested an outright parking ban on Stevens Avenue near Evergreen Cemetery, restricting inside cemetery entrance parking to cemetery users, and tow-away zones. Brenerman and Costa said they would work with residents, the university and other Deering Center neighbors to find a solution.

“Maybe we can force a culture change to use the Bishop Street lot,” said Brenerman.

Correction: This story was amended at 11:20 a.m., March 23, 2016, to correct the number of parking spaces on and near the UNE campus.


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