Parking Committee advisory member speaks out

March 25, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

To the Editor:beach access sign
Thank you for Sue Erwin’s accurate and evenhanded reporting on the Parking Advisory meeting on Wednesday, March 16 – with one important correction.
Those of us living on beach access streets from 7th to 19th have in fact formed a neighborhood association, in part to simplify our communications with Lee County.  While we welcome everyone to our beautiful beaches, it is important for people to recognize that these streets are first and foremost small residential neighborhoods in the Historic District.
There is a physical and legal limit to how much parking activity is feasible and sustainable on these narrow sandy lanes. Imagine if your neighborhood was under this kind of pressure.
The last two or three years have seen chaotic over parking on our streets and unacceptable behavior on the part of some beachgoers. For example, in the last 10 days I have witnessed three people relieving themselves on the road or in the sea grass, an enormous RV backing into 12th St. and setting up an outdoor grill on the street, a couple screaming obscenities at each other for more than 10 minutes, and a group of underage boys on 12th Street with open cans of beer and many empty beer bottles left in the street. A resident’s driveway on 19th Street was blocked by three cars. She called the sheriff, and the cars were towed and ticketed, but the whole process took two hours. Nearly all of us pick up unconscionable amounts and types of trash in spite of the heroic efforts of our local Parks and Rec staff to keep up with it. These are the kinds of problems we are facing.
We feel our proposed solutions are reasonable:
•  A reminder about parallel parking only. It is already the law (Ord.91-35).
•  Prohibiting vehicles over 20 ft. except emergency and service vehicles. There is no turn-around area.
•  Beach closed at night, with hours posted as at other beaches and parks in Charlotte and Lee Counties.
•  Providing dedicated bicycle and golf cart parking areas to accommodate local residents and visitors who are staying on the island.
•  Signage noting no alcohol, camping or grilling on the beach, which is already the law under the Parks Ordinance 06-26.
•  Landscape “bump outs” on both sides of residents’ access ways to prevent blocking and to better delineate legal parking areas.
We also think it is appropriate to consider permit parking. There are already 18 beach sites in Lee County that require parking stickers. Lee County Parks parking permits cost sixty dollars a year. This is a small price to pay for a prime parking spot next to a lovely beach. As residents, we pay a lot for the privilege of living here.
We are not in favor of parking meters, even though many beaches have them. Ideally our entire community will come together to help conserve our fragile environment and preserve Boca Grande as the tranquil residential community that it is.
With a rational parking plan and expectations of civilized behavior, I think we can accomplish that.
Chris Cowperthwait
President, HD  7-19 Neighborhood Association
Boca Grande