by Max Royale ~ St Augustine Beach City Manager


What a dilemma: So much desire, so little space. About what am I writing, you ask? Why, our beach and what a magnet it is to the hundreds of visitors who flock to it on a sunny spring and summer weekend. What our visitors desire, nay demand! is access to that magnet. And key to that access is a means to get to the magnet, which is a vehicle; and key to the successful use of that vehicle for a day at the beach is having a parking space for it so that its occupants can enjoy the magnet. I hope you see the spellbinding logic here. And even more logical: In a 2 ½ square mile island city with limited land, can a parking space be provided for every visitor who desires one? Obvious answer: Nope.

Before proceeding further, one key fact needs to be highlighted: Nearly all Florida coastal cities do NOT allow driving and parking on their beach. Ours does. Thus, beach visitors, if they arrive early and have a 4-wheel drive vehicle for traversing the soft sand, can usually find a parking space. Perfect for unloading kids, coolers, food, tents, chairs, dogs, sand pails, shovels, frisbees, assorted other recreation equipment and sundry adults immediate to sand and surf. This is why on the afternoon of a busy holiday like Memorial Day, you might count (as I did several years ago) nearly 500 vehicles parked on the beach between A Street and the City’s southern limit.

Where else can visitors park in the City? There’s public parking at the east end of Pope Road, in pier park and Ocean Hammock Park, the plazas at 10th, 8th and A Streets, and paved, designated parking spaces along one side of 16th, 8th and 5th Streets. There are also public parking lots shared with businesses like the Sunset Grille, Café 11, Kookaburra and Jack’s Bar-B-Q. In all, these areas, including the beach, provide about 905 spaces. In addition, there are unmarked parking spaces along 2nd Avenue between A and 1st Streets, 3rd Street between the Boulevard and 2nd Avenue, and 4th Street east of the Boulevard. Add these to the 905 and the City likely has over 1,000 parking spaces. Quite a few for a mere 2 ½ square miles.

But once these spaces are occupied, what do visitors do? Ever resourceful, many find a space wherever they can with the consequence that residents complain about visitor parking disrupting their neighborhoods and causing congestion, noise, litter, while visitors risk the unhappy consequence of finding on their windshield a $75 ticket for illegal parking.

Is a balance between visitor desire for parking and resident desire for neighborhood tranquility possible? We’ll see. Certainly, the City must attempt to find a reasonable balance.

For that attempt, the City Commission at its May 24th meeting directed staff to prepare a five-year plan that’s to include improvements to existing areas where visitors now park, such as the 4th Street right-of-way east of the Boulevard, as well creating new parking areas, such as the plaza at 8th Street west of the Boulevard. The Commission also asked the Planning Board to develop a prioritized list of parking projects for the plan. The Board discussed this request at its June 15th meeting and decided members are to make their own lists, which the Board will review at its July 20th meeting.

Residents are invited to send their ideas for the parking plan to me at mroyle@cityofsab.org and to attend the Planning Board’s July 20th meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m.