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OUR OPINION: Parklet trend should be permanent

The trendy call it "al fresco" dining. Translated, it means "in the cool air." It must be the great new thing, because it seems most places either have outdoor dining options or are seeking them. Here in Greater Grand Forks, many bars and restaur...

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The trendy call it "al fresco" dining. Translated, it means "in the cool air."

It must be the great new thing, because it seems most places either have outdoor dining options or are seeking them.

Here in Greater Grand Forks, many bars and restaurants have outdoor options, and anecdotal evidence tends to show their customers are literally eating them up. Drive in the business district, or along Columbia, or 32nd Avenue or in East Grand Forks any day of the week - during the late spring and summer, of course - and see for yourself.

And earlier this month, the Grand Forks City Council gave approval to a plan that will only increase this growing trend. The council unanimously passed a project that allows extended seating on platforms on parking spaces in front of downtown restaurants. The platforms and the area they create are called ""parklets" and they've been OK'd for a three-year trial in Grand Forks.

According to a recent Herald report, the parklets are broad platforms surrounded by a decorative barrier.

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They are placed over parking spots outside a restaurant and create an extended place where patrons are able to sit and enjoy dinner in the cool of the evening air - literally al fresco.

What a great idea, and we hope it's a project that grows and eventually is extended in Grand Forks.

Because the weather in this northern climate is chilly for the majority of the year, it doesn't leave residents luch time to enjoy the outdoors. We figure that's why our local golf courses are busy, why the bike path down the Greenway is used heavily and why any and all available outdoor restaurant seating is gobbled up, even at fast-food joints.

Adding these parklets expands opportunities, not only for customers but for the bars and restaurants, too.

So far, only food and soft drinks are available on the parklets, paperwork for which should have them ready for installation soon, should businesses choose. At least one downtown business manager hopes to the council eventually approvals alcohol sales on the sites.

We don't see that as a problem. Already, alcohol is available at sidewalk tables that sit near downtown bars. We don't see alcohol sales on the parklets as jeopardizing the peace, nor do we see it increasing, say, underage consumption.

And for those who may wonder about the lost parking, it appears plenty of parking is still available downtown. Councilman Brett Weber, for instance, noted the parking lots along the Greenway should be able to handle any overflow issues.

As minor as they seem, these parklets are a quality-of-life issue. In the Great North, our outdoors time is seriously limited, and any opportunities that get people outdoors and enjoying local businesses should be pursued.

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The council was right to approve the parklets. It's a project that benefits many.

Eventually, the program should move from project to permanent.

-- Korrie Wenzel for the Herald

Opinion by Korrie Wenzel
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.


As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.



Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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