Free-parking spaces could become paid parking at Siesta Beach

Would you pay to park at Siesta Beach?

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota County commissioners are mulling over the idea of paid parking at Siesta Beach. It’s an effort to help curb parking issues, but the idea has its critics.

Sarasota County says there are 976 free parking spaces at Siesta Beach but often that is not enough. So the county is doing research on possible solutions – one of them is paid parking.

It’s a method already being used throughout Tampa Bay but some say free parking is one of the perks of Siesta Beach, and they’re not fans of the idea.

“I don’t see that it would be beneficial really. I know they’d make some money off it but I think there would be less people,” said one beach-goer.

“A lot of these people are on fixed incomes and people have kids, they need the money, too,” said beach-goer Nikki Graber.

Some say the parking fee could help keep the crowds down and keep the beach clean. The crowds incited local controversy this summer when Siesta Beach was left trashed on Memorial Day weekend.

“I think they should charge a small fee. Keep away some of the undesirables and the people who don’t care. It’s a beautiful beach, let’s keep it that way,” said beach-goer Richard Maher.

Sarasota County officials have researched paid parking at beaches throughout the region. For example, Charlotte County charges 75 cents an hour at its beaches.

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce supports the idea. But chamber members insist the money must stay on the key, and local property owners should not be charged.

Officials stress its still too early and more research is left to be done. They’re also researching other ideas – like added parking lots, a water taxi or a bike-sharing program.

Siesta Beach is currently the No. 1 beach in America and some worry paid parking could hurt its reputation. “They might be No. 2 if they charge.”

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