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 email@example.com. I look forward to receiving any solutions that may help manage the ongoing issue of on-beach parking at Seaside Park.