ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. -- St. Johns County and St. Augustine Beach are partnering to refurbish a former parking lot on the beach, but not everybody is happy about it.
However, everyone seems to agree that parking is an issue and more parking spaces are needed.
Shawn Pokorny has lived in St. Augustine Beach for 13 years, and he said parking "is definitely an issue on the weekend and during the summertime."
St. Johns County and the City of St. Augustine Beach have agreed to spend about $100,000 into refurbishing a former, sandy parking lot which sits just south of Anastasia State Park and right next to a hotel.
It's at the end of Pope Road on A1A Beach.
Billy Zeits, who oversees St. Johns County Beaches said, "The plan has designated parking spaces, sidewalks on other either side, ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990) spaces and ADA access to the beach."
A few years ago, a fence was installed on the lot, essentially cutting the parking lot in half. The part closest to the water was closed off to cars. The county's plan calls for paving only the portion closest to the road, creating about 25 parking spaces instead of the 65 undesignated spots that were there.
"That means we're going to lose about 60 percent of the parking spaces that we've had there for years and years, and we desperately need parking at the beach," Bill Rosenstock said. He lives in St. Augustine Beach and opposes the plan.
Rosenstock has contacted state authorities trying to stop it.
Patrick Gillespie with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection confirmed local authorities have submitted an application for the project, and the DEP "recently sent back a request for additional information."
"The property is owned by the Board of Trustees (which is the Governor and Cabinet) and there is an easement that St. Johns County maintains," Gillespie said.
Pointing to a 2010 map, Rosenstock said, "This parking lot should go all the way to the end (or to its original size), but now it can go much further because of beach renourishment."
St. Johns County isn't keen on paving or providing parking beyond the fence.
"That's part of the renourishment project and the engineered beach," Zeits explained. "A lot of money was invested to improve the sand sand quality and type, and to put vehicles on that doesn't seem like the most sustainable solution as a long term solution."
As for Pokorny, he's OK with not paving any of it, and he'd like to see parking extend beyond the fence. He said it would provide more parking spaces to beach goers and help local businesses.
Zeits said the county is looking for other public lands where beach parking can be provided.
First Coast News