HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A new parking initiative, which the Huntsville City Council passed this week, will soon provide a designated space for veterans and active duty military service members at some public areas in the city.
It is called Save a Spot for Veterans. Devyn Keith, the council member representing District 1, said he has been working on this for a while.
"This is exciting," he said. "I wanted to make sure that we get it in spaces and locations that offer ease of access, but also in practical places."
Keith said a man he met served as the inspiration for the initiative.
"I saw a young man-- a seasoned individual as I like to say-- at the Richard Showers Center who parked his vehicle in a place that is not a parking spot, or at least a designation as a parking spot. He has a tough time getting from his vehicle to the door. And he swims at the Monday morning class. And I promised that if I figured it out the right way with legal and with the administration, we would get a parking spot for somebody like him," he explained.
Keith said the first spot will be designated at Huntsville City Hall on November 11. It will be named after Ralph Timberlake, a citizen activist and veteran who recently passed away.
There will be other sites to follow.
"Progressively throughout the rest of the year we will add them to prime locations such as the natatorium, the Richard Showers Center and places that they go," he said. "We invite the community to reach out and identify spaces that they know military veterans, military active duty, frequent. That they feel works for the city to come out and make it a Save-A-Spot."
Beverly Lowe, President of the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition, is thrilled about this. She also works as the Special Events Coordinator for the city of Huntsville through the Department of Parking and Public Transit.
Lowe said, "It's not just for certain veterans. You don't have to have a disability to park there."
Still, it can be helpful for some who find mobility difficult "so that around the city, there are veterans who can have access to places that they need and can have up-front parking if they do not have a handicap," explained Keith.
"You know, there's a vast difference between being disabled and being handicapped," said Lowe. "You could have a disability and no one could ever know that."
But she hopes that all veterans and active duty service members feel appreciated when the signs go up.
"It's like a small thank you. A recognition," she remarked. "I hope they see it that way."
Keith said the spaces, once they are prepared, will be marked with respectful signage and a special color to designate the space.
"We want it to be something that is aesthetically pleasing, and congruent, and can be replicated," he said.
That's because Keith wants to see places beyond the city-owned sites pick the idea up and carry it on.
"We want to send this out so that the private marketplaces can join the program," he explained. "So they [the veterans] know that where they go, there will be a parking spot and a sign of respect."