Booming Tourist Season Renews Need To Deal With Lack Of Parking At Area Beaches, Say Officials
The Saugatuck area has been humming this season as the number of visitors have swollen, parks and beaches have been packed and summer festivals are being very well attended, locals and municipal officials agree.
The liveliness is great for merchants, but also resurfaces the problem of limited parking spaces in the area.
The problem is quite evident at the Douglas Beach and Saugatuck’s Oval Beach, but especially with the former having few parking spaces, Douglas City Council members discussed at Monday night’s meeting.
“Clearly it’s a public safety issue for both of us (cities),” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere, referring to city officials’ concerns about the effects on neighbors and the problems it could cause for emergency vehicles.
“I talked to one Interurban driver (recently) and he said the car backup was almost up to Blue Star Highway on Center Street. He said, ‘I’ve never seen it that bad,’” noted Douglas Mayor Pro Tem Martha Hoexter.
Besides having few parking spaces, Douglas Beach is also much smaller than Oval Beach thereby compounding issues especially with Douglas Beach getting the overflow of beachgoers because the parking lot at Saugatuck’s Oval Beach is maxed out or because beachgoers don’t want to pay the parking entrance fee.
“Are we seeing the repercussions of them (City of Saugatuck) increasing the daily parking fee?” asked Douglas City Council Member Greg Harvath, referring to Saugatuck’s recent increase of its Oval Beach parking entrance charge, from $6 to $8 for daily passes and from $40 to $50 for seasonal passes.
The backup of cars, both on the road and parked, from Oval Beach effects Douglas, just as the backup of Douglas Beach does as well, council members discussed Monday, saying they would like to hold a joint meeting with their Saugatuck counterparts to discuss the problem.
“We have to come up with some kind of solution,” said Harvath. “As one community, we should try to work together in a way that benefits both of us.”
One idea for a solution suggested by Harvath was shuttling people to and from the beaches.
But, as noted by Interurban Transit Authority Director Phyllis Yff, “That service is there already. A $1 or 50¢ fee (for the public bus system’s demand-response service) is generally not too much to ask for saving people from having to be driving around looking for a parking space.”
Interurban frequently drops and picks up people at both beaches, noted Yff.