Free parking in downtown Great Falls

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Starting Friday, April 2, it'll cost you to park in downtown Great Falls as the city and businesses continue to return to normal. 

We spoke with Dragonfly Dry Goods, Montana Mosaic and Inge's Fashions and they all said the same thing, they aren't a fan of paid parking because it can be an inconvenience for their customers. 

"The cost, it's not a huge cost, but it is inconvenient, I get that, and it will be inconvenient. It'll be a learning curve again," Alison Fried, the owner of Dragonfly Dry Goods, said. 

"I kind of wish it wouldn't be here. But then again I understand why it is here," Carolyn Brown, owner of Montana Mosaic, said. 

Paid parking was suspended because of COVID-19 to help support downtown businesses, especially during the summer months. 

"We started seeing a lot of traffic in here. We saw people we would never normally see... So, in all true honesty, I would have to say it did help us. People liked the fact they didn't have to pay for parking," Brown said. 

However, the city planning and development offices say many businesses told them employees and residents were taking up spaces in front of their stores instead of the much-needed customers. 

"Yes, people will park on the street the entire day or for days and that does happen. Of course, people always take advantage of a situation when they don't have any consequences for it," Fried said. 

But all three businesses have the same solution to help you. 

"I'll help pay for your parking. That helps me out too and probably brings me back customers," Brown said. 

"We're here to serve you. And if we can help you, we will pay for parking for your. We will help you get the meter. We have our parking place behind our building and it's 50 cents for two hours. If you don't want to pay the 50 cents, get the white ticket, bring it in, and we'll validate it," said Inge Buchholz, owner of Inge's Fashions. 

"If you come into our store and tell me your plate number on your car, I'm going to get on the app and I'm going to pay your parking. So, that's going to be our solution to a problem that is bigger than just Dragon Fly," Fried said. 

All of these businesses are encouraging you to shop local, saying it's still needed. 

Starting April 2, you'll see new kiosks around central avenue as well as the old parking meters of the side streets.

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