Would you pay to park at a St. Johns County beach lot?

County leaders studying best way to start charging for parking at beach lots

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Free parking at St. Johns County beaches could soon be a thing of the past.

County leaders are conducting a study right now to find out the best way to charge for parking in all county lots off the beach.

ONLINE: List of St. Johns County beach access

With 42 miles of coastline, there’s a lot of places to go in St. Johns County, and there are several county lots from Mickler’s Landing to Crescent Beach that are currently free.

But 1,364 parking spots could become metered or have a parking attendant in a move that officials said will generate much-needed revenue and use tourist dollars to spruce up the facilities and coast.

“I think it is crazy that they're going to make us pay to come in,” St. Johns County resident Maddie McGrogan said.

But some visitors were surprised the lots are currently no charge.

“I was even surprised when we came here that it was free parking,” said Jim Lawrie, who was visiting Wednesday from Canada. “I was expecting to pay something.”

St. Johns County spokesman Michael Ryan said more than 6 million people visited the county's beaches last year.

Local leaders said it costs money to keep the beaches in tip-top shape for all those visitors.

County leaders said they will consider whether to give veterans, those with handicapped decals and county residents reduced or free parking.

There's no word on the price yet for those who might have to pay. It could be anywhere from $5 to $10.

“As a tourist, I really wouldn't have a problem with that, because I think in the long run, it is only going to enhance the property and will probably help to clean up, to keep it clean, and it will even create jobs,” Lawrie said.

If the charge was $5 per vehicle, that could make $1,000 a day for a 200-space parking lot. That would be $365,000 a year. And that's just for one lot.

“Our goal is to maximize the revenue to go back into the beach fund and keep it a fair rate for all of our visitors,” Ryan said.

DOCUMENT: County not renewing Farmers Market lease

Paid parking would also affect the St. Augustine Beach pier’s lot, which has its spaces filled with farmer’s market vendors every Wednesday. The county doesn’t charge the farmer's market organizers, and News4Jax has learned the county won't be renewing the lease. That means by next year, the organizers will have to find another spot where they're not taking up parking spaces.

As far as the paid parking goes, once the research study is done, county commissioners will choose what’s best, but a decision is still pretty far off.

About the Author: