Since the 1800s, there has been discussion of "The Tragedy of the Commons." Unregulated, unlimited access to highly desired public resources ("Commons") results in destruction of those resources. Anna Maria Island is in this category.
We need a countywide dialogue to determine various carrying capacities of the island. This includes people and vehicles. How many residents, rental tourists and day users can the island sustainably accommodate? How many vehicles can island infrastructure support?
There are many good possible solutions being discussed now. For instance, off-island parking with a free round-trip shuttle, which runs often enough to make it a viable alternative to non-resident users, is an idea whose time has come. Manatee County benefits from the taxes received by tourists, so it is reasonable that the county participate in paying for a solution that allows this tax base to grow. By paying for and managing an off-island parking facility, the county will be showing its commitment to responsible and controlled growth.
Another good island stewardship option is parking permits, which allow for better control of road use. Parking permits facilitate regulating the number of vehicles on the island to an appropriate, proactively decided-upon carrying capacity.
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Perhaps we should think of the island as a publicly shared resource similar to the Grand Canyon. That shared piece of land has usage restrictions to allow it to remain in an unspoiled condition while still being enjoyed by millions. I think the right perspective will diminish a lot of the politics, name calling and animosity between those who live on the island and those who live off the island. Islanders have a right to a reasonable home, and off-island county residents have a right to a close and reasonable recreational venue. Let's work together to solve these real problems!
Bill Van Horne