At the end of June, Jacksonville Beach will begin charging for parking at two of the city’s municipal parking lots. The lot across from City Hall, and the lot at the pier at 6th Avenue North. And not just charging a little. It’ll cost you 10 bucks to leave your car in the lot. And that’s a lot.
These are the two of the largest lots in Jacksonville Beach, and in the heart of the dining and entertainment district.
The city says it is trying to raise revenue and “see if there is demand for paid parking” at the beach. The short answer to that question is “No”. Maybe that’s the wrong syntax, but “demand” for paid parking? Not so much.
One of the things that really impressed me when I first moved here 9 years ago was that there was no paid parking at the beach. I’d been down to Daytona, where they pay to park, and access to the water over on the gulf coast is practically non-existent, and none of it free. But I don’t recall any parking fee as high as $10. If you’re going to spend all day at the beach, or the pier, that’s one thing. But for those of us who might want to just go to dinner in Jacksonville Beach, or head down there to meet with friends, I’m thinking adding $10 to the cost of any beach outing might cause them to be less frequent, particularly in an economy where no one is sure if they’ll have a job tomorrow. It’s difficult enough to afford an evening out, but it’s like putting a $10 parking tax on an evening at the beach.
Granted, there will still be street parking on at the beach, and the lot between Third and Fourth Avenues North are not mentioned for a parking fee. But anyone who’s been to the beach on a Friday or Saturday night knows that lot fills up quickly on any given night. If it’s the only free lot in walking distance of the nightlife, or for a day at the beach, well, do ya think you’re gonna have to be real lucky to find a spot in that lot? Yeah, me too.
I know that the parking fees cropped up after an increase in … shall we say “disorderly conduct” incidents at the beach. I know there have been times when particularly the pier lot has been filled with motorcycles and go-loud cars, as well as some very loud stereos. I don’t know if the parking fee might be targeted at some of these gatherings, but it’s not too much of a stretch.
Then, too, there’s the access issue. Beach access is taken into account when beach renourishment projects are considered. With so many cities charging for parking at or near the beach far more extensively than Jacksonville Beach is considering, I’m not so sure that argument holds a lot of water.
For those of us who live at the beach, the Trolley is certainly an attractive option, at least the months that it runs. 50 cents for the Trolley is certainly a better than 10 bucks to park. And, there’s some good nightlife at Town Center in Atlantic and Neptune beaches. Of course, parking at Town Center on a summer weekend is always and adventure. There have been times that we’ve given up and gone home rather than make another lap looking for a parking space. The other option, of course, is the bicycle. And that’s looking more and more attractive on a lot of levels.
The bottom line is, I’m unlikely to pay $10 to park my car at the beach myself.
If there’s a nice valet, we’ll consider it. More likely, we’ll just stay home, or find someplace else to go.