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Letters: Families need beaches, open up 5th Street, respect for environment

June 20, 2024
By Boca Beacon Reader

To the Editor:

My husband and I visit Boca Grande quite often. I read with great interest the articles focusing on the parking issues on Gasparilla Island, specifically in Boca Grande. I was particularly dismayed and disheartened by what appears to be the Lee County Commission’s deliberate attempt to limit its exposure to public input on the parking issues.

Advising the public that this issue, was not going to be taken up at the June 4th meeting and then at the last minute (almost literally and figuratively) putting it on the agenda, leaves one with a bad taste in their mouth regarding government transparency and responsiveness. But with a federal administration that fails to provide transparency on critical issues important to Americans, this sort of thing tends to creep downhill to the local government level, so I am not surprised by what happened.

Now to the parking issue: I sympathize with the residents of the island who live on or near the beach access points. I was raised to have respect for other people’s property and to appreciate the fact that we are welcomed to those beach areas by residents. Unfortunately, not everyone was raised with those values and that is regrettable.

(To be fair, recently I did see a group of some 12 people – five of whom were children – who were having a fun day at the beach and left not one iota of trash, with any sandcastles built by the kids leveled and filled in. This is not the norm for most beachgoers on any of our beaches I’m sure, but there are those of us who do respect our environment.)

My fear, when a county governing body gets involved in an issue such as this, is that cost prohibitive parking and fines are instituted because it’s just the easiest and laziest way to solve the problem. But the domino effect of this can be counterproductive for businesses and beachgoers. In today’s economy, the beach is one of the few places a family with kids can go to have a fun day and not have to pay a fortune. Businesses in downtown will no doubt see a downturn in revenue with a limit on parking time, since a meal downtown and shopping afterward will take a lot longer than two hours.

I believe someone suggested that the beach access points be closed off to beachgoers completely. I’m not sure if that would be legal, because the maintenance of those access points may be funded by taxpayer dollars and as such cannot be prohibited to non-residents. If you prohibit people from parking there, then you have exacerbated the problem by funneling them deeper into the residential streets.

Which begs this question: why was the beach access near the tennis courts (5th street?) NOT rebuilt after Hurricane Ian? That lot had to take some of the load off other areas since it was public parking. It seems that government’s answer to situations like this is to limit even more access to areas in question. Keep in mind that if commissioners do limit access to the beach side streets, then that puts even more stress on the parking areas for the state park. In which case the parking “problem” hasn’t been solved, just moved to a different area.

Perhaps the county’s energies and dollars would be better spent getting a better handle on the future growth our area is expected to see in the coming years by planning for that growth in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive manner.

I think a macro solution is less damaging to all interests on the island than a micro-managing of the parking problem.

Respectfully submitted,

Rita Kitenplon

Charlotte County