The Lonely Parking Meter – Winters, California - Atlas Obscura

In the small town of Winters, California there is a parking meter. It is the only parking meter in the entire town and it is surrounded by 100 free spaces.

The Business District in Winters is only about four blocks long.  This is a quiet little farming town but in the past few years it has become an attraction for visitors who wish to enjoy the country atmosphere or to dine at several fine restaurants. Unfortunately for locals, it soon became a problem finding a place to park. City officials were getting an earful about the downtown parking.

In the early morning of April 1, 2015, someone decided to install an old—yet still functioning—parking meter in the downtown area. This was the first parking meter to ever appear in this town of 7,000 people. A Sacramento television station dispatched a film crew to record this April Fool’s prank.  

The locals quickly figured out they could ignore the meter and were soon going about their business as usual. The police department had been instructed to ignore the meter. They have never written a ticket. It is rumored that the police don’t even have an ordinance addressing parking meters. 

Occasionally, a parent will drop in a dime and turn the red handle—just to show their young ones how it works.  Out-of-towners have been seen feeding the meter and then walking away grumbling. 

In February of 2016 the meter was removed for two weeks to be repaired. This sparked several citizens to complain about where their missing parking meter had gone.

This rogue parking meter generates about $100 a year. All the money is donated to the annual fireworks fund. If you’re passing through Winters, drop in a few coins and then come back on the 4th of July for the fireworks. You paid for it.

Know Before You Go

As a cautionary note: If you plan to visit Winters, it is best to choose a rainy day or possibly an early Sunday morning. Not surprisingly, the parking problem hasn’t really improved since the meter was installed.

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