FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – A petition to allow beach parking to remain in Fernandina Beach is making the rounds, and a demonstration against any changes the city might make is planned for next Tuesday.
The area being discussed is Seaside Park, which is where the restaurant Sliders Seaside Grill is located. Carson Zylinksi, the restaurant manager, said taking away beach parking would be a blow to business because many of her customers park on the beach.
"Our parking lot is pretty full way before we open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday," Zylinski said. "If we lose that, say, couple hundred spaces per day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, where are they going to go? People are going to relocate. They are not going to come here anymore. There's nowhere else for them to park."
The reason for her concern is because the parking lot is shared by restaurant patrons and beachgoers, so those beach spots give restaurant patrons another option.
Donnie Lawrence frequents the area and agrees it would hurt business.
"When we go to Sliders, which we do quite a bit normally, there's not enough parking in the parking lot to accommodate the beach and Sliders, so we park on the beach and walk up," Lawrence said. "That parking (lot) that accommodates the beach parking and the restaurant is always full, otherwise you have to park a half a mile down the road."
Vice Mayor and City Commissioner Len Kreger has spoken publicly against beach parking following those two incidents where beachgoers were run over by drivers on the beach. He told News4Jax that he wants to eliminate the 600 feet of parking that exists now on Fernandina Beach.
"It’s a total gaggle out there," Kreger said, adding that he has gotten both backlash and support for that proposal.
Kreger said beach parking raises both safety and environment concerns. He said Fernandina Beach does not have a habitat conservation plan that deals with sea turtles, so the city is going to reach out to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Kreger said his goal is to get it managed properly, and then have a vote on beach parking.
Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin issued a statement, reading:
"The city will complete a survey related to beach parking prior to any reduction of the designated parking area. The city will soon provide a recommendation on how to proceed with that survey."
Next Tuesday's demonstration is planned to take place at City Hall.