On Tuesday morning, Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith was able to secure unanimous approval to enlarge the presence of boulders on undeveloped land at Alligator Point to deter parking.
And he signaled that if that doesn’t work, he may support closure of public parking areas.
He said two law enforcement officials, including himself, had been out there last weekend, assisting in the towing and ticketing of scofflaws.
“The people who get towed and ticketed are very unhappy people. It’s just really a volatile situation. People get mad when they are ticketed and towed,” he said.
“A couple years ago we put out boulders that eliminated some parking areas. Where we put those rocks they don’t park there anymore. They do pick up rocks and move them (but) there are some areas where we can enhance those areas,” Smith said.
County Attorney Michael Shuler urged commissioners to move thoughtfully before closing off any public parking areas.
“That would be unprecedented,” he said. “I would be concerned if the board took action. If they have no way to park, it means you’re cutting off public access. Cutting off public access is unprecedented in the county; it should have more thoughtful consideration.”
Commissioner Jessica Ward moved, and Boldt seconded, a motion to have the county place larger rock impediments on some undeveloped parcels. She also called for a public workshop to address the parking issue throughout the county.
“I understand it is a public beach,” she said. “If people have a little bit of a way to park, they’re going to park.”
Jones said the parking issue also plagues St. George Island, to a lesser extent, as some people block the view of stop signs on Gulf Beach Drive by parking between the road and the bike path.
Lockley said that infrastructure needs to adapt to a greater push for tourism.
“You’ve got to have these things for people if you want them to come,” he said, joking that the Tourist Development Council might consider advertising “bring your bathroom with you, bring your parking lot with you.
“You could charge people parking fees,” he said, a proposal that Boldt voiced support for,
“It (the parking situation) ain’t going backwards, it’s going to get worse, it’s not going to get better.”