New Parking Rules, Opening Times For Oval Beach
Early bird visitors will be able to enter Oval Beach with their vehicle as early as 7 a.m. and pay nothing, but come 8 a.m., all vehicles will have to pay the parking lot entrance fee or else be slapped with a $20 ticket.
This was part of Saugatuck City Council’s Monday night move, approving a change in the hours of operation and the time beach staff is to start charging vehicles for entering the parking lot.
Tens of thousands visitors a year visit the world-famous Oval Beach and the adjacent Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, a duneland with public trails revered for its natural beauty.
Oval Beach will now be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The gates of the beach will open at 7 a.m. for vehicles, but once the clock strikes 8 a.m., all beachgoers with a vehicle in the parking lot are expected to have a parking sticker or annual pass, regardless of whether the vehicle entered before 8 a.m. or not.
The only thing that will not change - and hasn’t changed much for a number of years, according to Saugatuck officials - is the price of the parking entrance fee itself.
Day passes cost $6 while seasonal passes cost $20 for local taxpayers and $40 for non-local taxpayers.
The issue was not an easy one for city officials to address, as there were differing point of views expressed.
Some promoted the early opening hours for the benefit of the public, others had misgivings, citing that beach staff needing a proper amount of time to have an opportunity to prepare the beach, (e.g., sweep off the sand on the parking lot and overall cleaning of the beach.)
Others advanced ideas of a new parking-fee schedule they said would maximize the opportunity to generate revenue.
For Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken it was a matter of finding equilibrium. “I understand the importance of adequate funding (to operate the beach and generate revenue) and consistency, but it must be balanced with goodwill to the public.”
Bekken said he wanted to stop charging the public by 8 p.m., providing the public an opportunity to go watch sunsets free of charge.
Saugatuck Council Member Henry Van Singel opposed any changes from last year’s schedule.
He and Bekken were the only council members to give a no vote to the resolution on Monday.