The practice of “parking space saving” – whereby weary shovelers reward their effort by marking the newly cleared territory, often for days or even weeks – is a polarizing issue in Boston. If effective snow removal policy ranks high on a mayor’s agenda – and it does – the question of what to do with the street debris that often surfaces in a storm’s wake is up there, too.

Now, at least in one Boston neighborhood, it appears some residents are taking a stand.

According to UniversalHub, citing a request from The South End Forum, which reportedly represents a number of neighborhood groups in the area, a request has been filed “to completely ban the practice of space saving after winter storms.”

The city has allegedly “agreed,” though to what extent and in what official capacity remains unclear.

“To uphold this city wide directive for this winter, the Department of Public Works will not be altering their actions in the South End at this time,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office obtained by BostInno. “DPW remains committed to collecting space savers on regularly scheduled trash days, provided 48 hours has passed since a snow emergency/parking ban is lifted.”

The goal appears to be for the South End to act as the pilot neighborhood for a more uniform, citywide mandate to follow.

From the request:

The SE Forum has agreed to launch a communications campaign which asks all South End residents (and their visitors) to refrain from using parking “space savers” to designate and reserve on-street parking spots that they may (or may not) have shoveled during a previous storm.

The practice, the group contends, prohibits others from parking in areas already constricted for street space.

Neighborhood associations universally view the practice of “saving” a parking spot after it has been shoveled by one individual as a significant contributor to reduced on-street parking inventory–while the “space savers” reserve an otherwise available parking spot–and as an avoidable trigger that has led increasingly over the past few years to unnecessary and avoidable hostility, confrontation, intimidation, and acts of criminal vandalism.

I’m not convinced the SE Forum can speak “universally” for other such associations, but the practice has undoubtedly caused friction in Boston before and continues to be a source of consternation. Cars that ignore a space saver sometimes get vandalized. Space savers start showing up before the snow starts falling, in visitor parking, or in spaces that haven’t even been cleared of snow at all. There’s even been a reported sighting at Logan Airport.

In preparation for the major January storm, Mayor  Walsh said policing such space savers would be done on a case by case basis, but the two-day limit – a holdover from the Menino days  – would remain in effect.

Ask a few random passersby where they stand, and you’re likely to come away with a host of competing answers. Many residents feel that the often back-breaking and time consuming work of shoveling out a car should warrant a certain entitlement to that spot – at least for a bit. Others still vehemently disagree, contending that just because you happened to park there before it snowed shouldn’t mean you own that spot now that it has. One guy has even been taking the law into his own hands, driving around collecting cones.

For now, this pangs of a neighborhood-level effort with the promise of city involvement. “Because we have only a few weeks of winter remaining this season,” states the SE Forum release, “Public Works will wait till next fall to launch their own information and education campaign announcing the South End as a space saver free pilot neighborhood.”

The practice of saving your parking space in a dense urban city such as Boston is an imperfect one. Our winters are long, our streets congested enough as it is. Mayor Walsh has said that people digging out after a storm “should be able to keep the space for a few days … But they don’t own the space.”

We need a blanket policy that’s fair and enforceable. Either nobody can save a spot, period – as The SE Forum is pushing for now – or a strict day limit should be applied and enforced, with tickets issued to those refusing to comply.

Whatever happens, it’s lawless out there right now. Give a shoveler a spot, it would seem, and many will take a whole lot more than that.

Image via @pconnors