NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – The city banned parking on First Street during the Fourth of July celebration to help with safety and crowd control along the beach's popular partying corridor.
The no parking rule began at midnight Monday and lasts all day on July 4. It applies to about 200 parking spaces along First Street, Neptune Beach police said.
Neptune Beach police said the biggest reason for not allowing parking along First Street is to help them with crowd control.
“By eliminating that parking, we feel that not only is it a little safer for the bicyclists, but also just property damage that could potentially occur while bicyclists may run into cars on First Street,” Sgt. Michael Key said.
Key said the change is an initiative from new Police Chief Richard Pike, after crowds got out of hand in the past.
Police said such crowds make it difficult for officers or emergency personnel to get to an emergency quickly.
Last year, guitarist Lane Pittman drew a crowd on Neptune Beach street during his performance of "The Star Spangled Banner," leading to a controversial arrest for breaching the peace that made national news.
Pittman's charges were later dropped, and he said the exposure was actually positive for him.
“God works everything for the good of those he loves, man,” Pittman said Monday on The Morning Show. “This is just a testament to it. I've played the anthem I don't know how many times in the past year. I've had all kinds of gigs and offers and all kinds of cool, crazy stuff happen because of it.”
In 2013, a deck collapsed and eight people were injured in Neptune Beach.
Police said they are learning from those incidents, and banning parking on First Street is just one of the changes for this year's celebration.
Third Street to the coast will be broken into three sections, North, Central and South; and officers will patrol each area to help guide traffic and party-goers.
James Henehan, who has lived in Neptune Beach for 27 years, said he thinks the parking change is a good idea.
“It seems reasonable, you know. It seems like parking is going to be an issue, though,” Henehan said. “There always seems to be tight spaces around Jax beaches.”
Despite the change, Henehan said he thinks the thousands of visitors will focus less on parking and more on celebrating.
“There’s going to be a lot of people out here, but hopefully everyone’s going to have a good time,” he said.
Resident Bill Hawkins said he thinks beach goers can still have a good time Monday.
“It's about riding their bikes and stuff,” Hawkins said. “When you start encroaching on other people's fun because you've had too much, that is not a good thing.”
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will also provide officers to assist with crowd control.
Police said parking will be available, just not along First Street -- so plan for more time and more walking.