■ SUBMITTED BY THE GASPARILLA ISLAND CONSERVATION AND IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION – As we begin to feel the changes that fall brings to the island, we eagerly anticipate the return of our winter residents and yet another busy season in Boca Grande.Throughout the summer months Lee County staff and a small group of dedicated island residents have begun the process of addressing the increasingly problematic parking issues that affect the island, especially during season.
As Boca Grande and its beaches continue to become more popular as a “beach destination,” the issues of beach parking are going to have to be addressed. In fact, the increase in vehicles coming to the island to enjoy the beaches is already creating more than just an inconvenience. According to Fire Chief C.W. Blosser, the increase in vehicles is creating a safety issue by blocking access to emergency vehicles on the narrow, historic residential beach access streets.
“Boca Grande is fortunate to have dedicated residents like Chris Cowperthwait, Robert Johnson, Sandy Melvin, Lynne Seibert and Mark Spurgeon working with experts provided by Lee County to revise the current outdated Lee County Gasparilla Island Parking Ordinance,” said Bayne Stevenson, GICIA President.
With that said, because this is an issue that all residents of Gasparilla Island have a stake in, it is important that a method of public input be made available. When GICIA Executive Director Misty Nichols brought this matter to the attention of Randy Cerchie, the director of Lee County’s Department of Transportation, he immediately took action and established the following email account: DotProjectAdmin@Leegov.com.
The GICIA encourages interested residents to contribute to this ongoing process by sending their suggestions and comments regarding the parking ordinance to the Lee County email address that has been provided.
“If you decide to submit comments, please keep in mind that the scope of this effort is limited to review and potential modification of existing parking ordinances as they relate primarily to safety along beach access roadways within the historic district of Boca Grande,” said Cerchie, “but understand there is not an identified Capital Project. So staff resources will be limited and responses will be on an ‘as-available’ basis to questions related to the issue.”
The GICIA is committed to continue our efforts to maintain the small town charm of Boca Grande. “As residents it is critical to work together to strike a balance between the neighborhood needs, such as safe passage for emergency vehicles and the inherent right of access to public beaches,” said GICIA President Bayne Stevenson. It is critical that everyone understands that the continuing increase in vehicles is moving us closer and closer to the tipping point.