BY SUE ERWIN – The debate about the ongoing parking issues on the island continued this week when an informal advisory board gathered at the Community Center for a discussion.
Concerned residents and business owners discussed potential solutions that they plan to present to county leaders for approval.
Ideas included installing signs that would limit parking to parallel parking only, no vehicles over 20 feet, and prohibiting parking on beach access streets from dusk to dawn. The signs would also prohibit alcohol, camping and barbecuing.
The group discussed rationale for these solutions and agreed that priorities need to be set before anything gets presented to the county.
It was determined that three major aspects should be addressed on beach access roads: To allow and enable emergency access; To protect the right of the public to park;
To protect the quality of life of property owners.
Opinions varied on the priority of the issues that should be addressed.
One major objective that all attendees agreed on was the community’s desire to preserve Boca Grande’s character as a tranquil, residential community with a focus on the preservation and conservation of its fragile environment, including recreation and open space areas.
Lee County Parks and Recreation Director Dana Kassler attended the meeting and said he would support any ideas and pass them along for county approval.
“We are willing to renew any signage changes that you are suggesting and then we’ll see what the options are on those public access roads,” Kassler said.
Another suggestion offered was for guests to purchase a yearly parking permit that would be issued from Lee County. Sheriff’s deputies and meter maids would then be able to monitor and enforce parking laws.
An argument quickly ensued that this idea would interfere with the current environment in Boca Grande, affecting the right to continue to enjoy what currently is free beach access.
Several agreed that they don’t want to discourage guests from coming to the island, but rather find a balance to keep the island tranquil while protecting homeowners so they feel safe and preserve public property at the same time.
Installing bike racks in place of some parking areas was another suggestion the group discussed.
Then there is the issue of landscape encroachments.
It was pointed out that while some of the homeowners on the beach access roads do an appropriate job of maintaining their landscape, others do not and then it falls to the county to maintain these roads. Then when property ownership changes, the problem can get even worse.
Members interjected and said that would be difficult to enforce because there are no homeowners associations on these streets to enforce such expectations.
The group discussed meeting again next month to prioritize the issues to present to county leaders.
Local members of the group include Chris Cowperthwait, Lynn Siebert, Robert Johnson, Mark Spurgeon, Lt. Jeff Corkhill, Chief C.W. Blosser and Capt. Sandy Melvin. They combine with Lee County administrators to form opinions to present to Lee County commissioners on what should be done to improve island parking.