Taskforce mulls parking fees

Special to the PRESS

February 12, 2015

Monday afternoon, Coastal Resource and Parks Administrator Reuben Treviño and City Manager Bill DiLibero attended the Shoreline Task Force meeting to update the committee on projects and improvements along the beach.

Treviño came to the Task Force with a follow-up on the City’s proposed Beach User Fee Program which would create a system of paid parking at beach accesses and along Gulf Boulevard. The General Land Office (GLO) responded to the proposal with some comments and concerns specifically in regards to the lack of parking spaces and free access to the beach. Statute requires one parking space per every 15 linear feet of closed beach, which rounds to about 1,450 parking spots required for South Padre Island. DiLibero pointed out that even though the City has plans to make the Island more walkable, the GLO would not consider parking on the west side of Padre Boulevard as part of the required parking as it would entail crossing a highway to get to the beach. Although they recognize the City’s size constraints and have taken into account the positive improvements that are being made with dune restoration and protection, the GLO expressed concern about required free parking to provide a fair system for everyone to have access to the beach. Treviño felt that GLO might be more accepting of the program if the City alleviated some of their concerns by continuing to offer free parking at three designated beach accesses until adequate parking is available. He recommended free parking for the Aurora Circle access near Wanna-Wanna Beach Bar & Grill, Surf Circle access near Boomerang Billy’s, and the Harbor access near Padre South. Other recommendations included offering a cash payment option for parking in addition to a credit card option with a fee not to exceed $12 per day for the hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Staff will take these recommendations to the City Council at their regular meeting on Feb. 18 for discussion and approval.

Treviño also gave the committee an update on beach access improvements being made by the Beach Maintenance Department. The team began replacing rusted poles with new wooden ones to display signage along Gulf Boulevard. They are also focusing on other maintenance at each access, including rail repairs and replacing broken concrete parking blocks for $22 apiece. In addition, they are concentrating on clearing overgrown vegetation as well as looking into new designs for Public Beach Access Parking signs. Treviño said of the repairs, “We’re just trying to make Gulf Boulevard and beach accesses look a little more uniformed and add a little style to them.”

Finally, DiLibero gave the committee an update on the progress of boat ramp and parking improvements at Polaris Street.  Erosion at the base of the boat ramp has caused problems for trailers lifting boats out of the water, and many wheels and axles have been damaged at the site. Stone-filled mats will be placed at the base to extend the ramp further into the water at a cost of $8,000, which will be covered entirely by the Public Works Department fund for infrastructure repairs. The project is projected to be completed by the end of February. After receiving daily inquiries about the boat ramp, Chairman Paul Munarriz was happy to hear about the progress. Parking additions in the area have also been discussed, but with an estimated cost of $80,000, the City is not in a position to begin the project. DiLibero plans to look into grants applications with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to secure funds for the parking improvements.

A Dune Restoration will take place this Saturday at the Poinsettia Circle Beach Access this Saturday February 14th from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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