While some states and communities actively discourage drivers from overnight parking, the town of Weed (pop. 3,000), at the base of Mt. Shasta in northern California on I-5, is doing everything it can to attract truckers to its free, city-built parking lots. The prime mover behind this program is City Manager Ron Stock who appreciates the importance of truckers to his town's economic health. We spoke with him about what's behind Weed's interest in truckers and why the town is planning to double the number of parking spaces in coming years. Following is an edited conversation with Stock.
Why are you welcoming truckers to park when many communities are pushing them away?
About four and a half years ago, when I became the city manager, I received a couple of messages from truck drivers who were upset about receiving tickets for parking in the south Weed area where we have a Pilot Travel Center. The traveling public provides a significant portion of our economy with about 84 percent of our total sales tax revenue coming from eight businesses located in south Weed, including two gas stations, the Pilot Travel Center, restaurants and fast-food locations.
A good portion of that 84% of our sales tax revenue comes from truckers. I recognized that it was a key industry in our community, and we needed to address some of the drivers' needs. The ticketing was occurring because we were trying to keep trucks off of the main thoroughfare between the truck plaza and the freeway. That’s a two block area between those two, and it was necessary for safety. But the trucking community needed more parking spaces so we leased two lots from private individuals and built parking lots. We posted that they were only available for truckers. Not RVs. Not autos. RVs and autos will be ticketed if they’re in that area. We limited the amount of parking time to 72 hours, in order to make space for others. It’s been a very positive thing, but we're beginning to run out of room.
How many spaces do you have?
Right now, we have 30 spaces spread over two lots. I’m in negotiations to acquire a third parcel in order to double the amount of space that we have available. We hope to have it available in the next couple of years.
What makes your community such a prime parking area?
If you look at a map, we’re one of the few places where you can actually catch all of the truck traffic on the West Coast. North of us, it splits on US Highway 30, 97, and I-5. And south of us, it splits on 99 and I-5. And the alternative places for truckers to stop? They can stop in Redding. They can stop in Medford. They can stop at Klamath Falls. But if you take a look at it in July and you have to sleep in your cab, Redding might be 108 degrees, Medford 102, Klamath Falls 100. And at the top of the mountain, in Weed, we’re 86 or 87 degrees. Where would you stop?
Is summer your peak time for truckers?
Our key times are generally the summer and fall months. Space becomes a premium at that point. That's why we limit parking to 72 hours.
Have you given any tickets?
We don’t want to give any tickets. We have been successful at not giving tickets for nearly three and a half years now.
Have you gotten any pushback or complaints from residents or anyone else?
None. We have never once, in four years, had to clean up the space. Our location is immediately adjacent to a very nice motel, the Comfort Inn. It's the newest facility in our community. They’ve never complained about noise, ever. Not a one.
Are there portable toilets are anything else on the lot?
It's just ground, but it’s immediately adjacent to the McDonald’s and the Burger King. Truckers can go in, grab a cup of coffee, and use the facilities. And, of course, shower facilities are available at Pilot.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask about your town's name.
We’re actually named after Abner Weed, who came here in the late 1800s to build a lumber mill. We have been a lumbering community ever since. The area has a significant amount of wind, and in late 1800s to early 1900s, the way in which wood was dried was not with a kiln but with wind. That's why our community was developed. When weed became synonymous with marijuana, we went to our citizens and asked: 'Do you want to change the name?' They said, 'no.' We do sell a lot of t-shirts and bumper stickers that say – 'I love Weed' – and in very small letters underneath it says 'that’s a small town in Northern California, Officer.'