Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross

Submitted by Chip Ross
Fernandina Beach City Commissioner
June 26, 2019 10:33 a.m.

A cherished right for Fernandina Beach residents or an environmental and costly safety disaster? That depends on who you talk to.

First a few facts: The City of Fernandina Beach limits contain approximately 6.7 miles of beach. The City allows parking on 600 feet of beach at the end of Sadler Road [Sea Side Park] or 1.7 % of the beach total. The City only allows service vehicles [Ocean Rescue, Police, Maintenance, Turtle Patrol] to drive on the remainder of the beach.

The 600-foot area is open for parking from 6 am to 9 pm. The speed limit is 5 miles per hour. Depending on the tide, the area will accommodate up to approximately 200 cars. Parking in the surrounding area is limited.

Recently Commissioner Kreger proposed that the City close on-beach parking at Sadler Road. If passed, this would eliminate any on-beach parking in the City for the foreseeable future. The City is about to conduct a study to determine if there is a demonstrated need for a reduced area.

If the City Commission votes to end parking on the beach, under Florida law, that parking
cannot be reinstituted in the future without action from the state legislature. Stopping on-beach parking would be a “forever” decision.

I receive e-mails and talk to folks in both camps. Both groups are passionate, they also believe they are in the over whelming majority and morally correct. I suspect there are substantial numbers in both groups. The conundrum for me, as a City Commissioner, is how do you accommodate the legitimate desires and concerns of both groups?

One resident writes:

“I am against beach driving and beach parking for safety reasons (2 people have been hit this year…who’s next?) and environmental reasons (beach erosion, dune damage, sea turtle nests, and oil spills).”

Personally, I agree that parking on that portion of the beach does cause adverse impacts to the environment and there is a real risk of injuries to beach goers when vehicles are on the beach. And I would add that the expense of patrolling and maintaining the area continues to exceed City cost estimates. Should 600 feet of parking in the sand really cost the tax payers thousands of dollars in enforcement vehicles, personnel, gate maintenance and gate personnel?

Another resident writes:

“ONCE AGAIN a few months have passed and a few of you are revisiting and rehashing what has already been decided- leave the SIX HUNDRED FEET of ON BEACH PARKING ALONE!!! Do NOT begin charging FEES for parking in city lots at the BEACH. DO NOT take away the little strip of on BEACH parking the citizens have left. PERIOD. (Which by the way means, THE END! NO MORE revisiting, rehashing, reintroducing what has ALREADY been COMPROMISED AND DECIDED. Yes, I am done being diplomatic. I am done being politic with my wording. My capitalization is me SHOUTING at a group of people RUINING our city with your nonsense progressive money-grubbing agenda!!!! STOP. LEAVE IT ALONE. The compromised improvements at the Sadler Rd. beach access are lovely and appreciated. Now, STOP.”

Again, I agree that parking on that portion of the beach does allow increased access to people with disabilities, makes taking your stuff to the beach easier, provides needed parking, and gives some folks great enjoyment.

Unfortunately, repeatedly stating that the other side is wrong about the issue, or stupid, or whatever, does not resolve an issue. We all need to live together in the same community at the end of the day. Some common ground needs to be found.

I am interested in hearing City residents’ solutions as to how we might accommodate at least some of the concerns of both groups. We can all SHOUT in capitals to have our views heard in e-mails and phone calls.  But it might be more productive to put forward some well thought out solutions that may actually help resolve some of the anger, the angst, and the cultural divide in our community concerning this issue.  My e-mail address is cross@fbfl.org. I look forward to receiving any solutions that may help manage the ongoing issue of on-beach parking at Seaside Park.

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Marsha Mason
Marsha Mason (@guest_55320)
3 years ago

I see this beach parking issue being a no win for most. Especially the locals who have know this to be a part of our unique island, the handicapped, the elderly and families with small children who may need to just drive down briefly to drop off their belongings. The other issue of the city monies to take care of this beach parking…. the only thing that has changed is the guard shack and perhaps more security…. we could have more cameras installed that could take the place of the guard shack and that could be constant monitoring. The parking dilemma IF the beach parking goes away will be twice as expensive for the city to take on than it is currently. More traffic around the round a bout, more people congesting the hotel parking lots and the need for more security. The beach parking has worked fine for many years and now all of a sudden it’s too costly, I don’t understand. Driving and laying on the beach has worked for more than my 34 years of living here and we can still learn to coexist and always be aware of our surroundings. Charging for beach access by vehicle is a win for city funding and also keeps the parking at a minimum. Otherwise remove the guard shack, patrol on 4-wheelers and allow everything to be as it is…. finding parking for the 200 vehicles that could otherwise park there will definitely be a bigger headache and a more costly issue.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_55321)
3 years ago

Chip’s article clearly identifies the dilemma facing the City Manager with the two very different perspectives. Years ago we used to leave our cars and doors unlocked, but the times have changed. Our beaches have become much more crowded and, sadly, there is not the respect shown for others and the beaches as was generally the case in past decades. Being able to drive on and park on the beach is a enhanced benefit and like most services above the norm, should come with a price. If you want to drive on the beach at Sadler, then pay a $5 – $10 fee to the attendant or to an iron ranger payment box during slack times. If you are a Nassau County resident and don’t want to pay or the parking is full, then drive down to Peter’s Point, Scott Road or Burney Park and drive/park there. An outright ban is going to further burden the beach access parking capacity issues. I seriously doubt the City is going to clear any “profit” from such operation due to the staffing and maintenance costs. Cameras can be a good enforcement and deterrent for bad behavior.and they can also be used for tourism purposes like many other communities do. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Robert Riegler
Robert Riegler (@guest_55323)
3 years ago

600 Feet of beach out of 6.7 miles? Really?

Post clearly……”Beach driving allowed in this area,sun bathing not recommended”. Ban beach driving here folks and then it’ll be banned at Peter’s Point, then Scott Road, then Burney Park,etc. Would you sun bath in the middle of Publix Parking lot? Of course not. I believe 200 cars were used in these articles. Where are you going to put them if off the beach? Build a 3 story parking garage? I fail to see the attraction to sunbathing amongst 200 cars.

Some City members appear to be quick on the draw to “ban” long standing rights under the ruse of “we want to keep you safe”. Start using some common sense and use the other 6.0 plus miles of beach for sun burning(sorry bathing). Remember freedoms are taken in small steady bits…..seems that’s now the “norm” here in Fernandina Beach. We have only been here ten years and these “debates” cycle forward every few years until folks get worn down and cave in. Sad but true most of us are too busy trying to keep our collective heads above water to engage non stop in these Forever Conversations.

Chuck Hall
Chuck Hall (@guest_55327)
3 years ago

“Danger! It is dangerous to sunbathe where cars drive.”
Doesn’t walking on a sidewalk, crossing the street, any activity where there are cars, create risk to life and limb? Do all people lose their rights due to a small number of accidents?
Dwindling rights and opportunities to enjoy the beach has taken 12 miles of beach driving here.
Please, let’s save this tiny 600 feet for the future and our children to appreciate. Surely there is a way to provide some safety, without tossing out the tiny right we have left?

Steven Crounse
Steven Crounse (@guest_55332)
3 years ago

Is there a reason we as a community can’t change the paradigm? Why can’t we eliminate Beach Parking totally at Sadler, and moved Beach Parking to the less crowded area.? Up around the North beach pavillion.? The locals, and handicapped still get the opportunity to park on the beach. and it eliminate the danger in a more congested area. I would think that could be a win/win for all.

terry jones
terry jones (@guest_55345)
3 years ago

there is nothing so wrong with parking on the beach as there is ‘not’ enough of it————-if u want to live in a no risk universe then live in isolation [even then u will discover there r risk]

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