More creative solutions to Anna Maria Island's parking woes

June 28, 2014 

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Beachgoers enjoy a sunny Wednesday relaxing at Coquina Beach.GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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The three cities on Anna Maria Island continue to debate the intractable parking issue. The primary solution on the table -- as has been the case for a long time -- is charging visitors for the privilege of parking in paradise.

With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, the traffic will return in force.

Understandably, island residents tire of vehicles cluttering residential streets, blocking driveways and crowding roadways.

Worse, there are those disrespectful and selfish visitors who violate basic human decency standards by tossing garbage in front of island homes.

Will paid parking solve those issues?

Vehicles blocking driveways and other entryways should be towed off -- at the vehicle owner's expense. Public trash receptacles placed in neighborhoods could help mitigate that problem.

Overall, though, one wonders if paid parking would change the character of the island -- at the cost of its famous reputation as an idyllic Old Florida beach community.

AMI's three city commissions have been grappling with this issue for years without resolution. There are no easy answers but there are plenty of questions.

When the so-called island "day-trippers" took some blame from city officials for causing parking and traffic problems last year, the backlash came swiftly and fiercely from off-island Manatee County residents.

Island overcrowding is unquestionable. What will paid parking accomplish besides raise revenue?

Is the goal to reduce visitation, especially when people flock there -- on holidays and weekends?

Financially struggling families can ill afford parking meters or permits.

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino has advanced the idea of $24 annual passes for all Manatee County residents, including islanders.

Worse, he suggested $120 annual parking permits for people from other counties and states. Island businesses would suffer immeasurable harm as visitation dropped.

We wouldn't object to nominal parking fees -- charges that don't block families from a day at the beach or discourage people from patronizing businesses.

Of course, Manatee County operates the lots at both Coquina and Manatee County beaches, and paid parking is not in the mix at those.

And kudos to the island businesses and churches who open their parking lots to beach-goers. City leaders should recruit more options like that to reduce neighborhood parking, with signage to steer visitors to the lots.

Some of the island's elected officials justify the paid parking idea as a way to raise revenue to pay for the infrastructure that visitors wear out.

The primary arterials on the island, though, including Gulf Drive, are state roads that are the responsibility of the Florida Department of Transportation.

If cars are damaging swales, plant trees or place rocks along streets to prevent parking. Find other solutions.

Island cities need to be more creative on the entire parking issue.

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