In a break with long-standing local tradition, the Sarasota County Commission will consider charging for parking at Siesta Key beaches, considered one of Florida’s crown jewels of beaches. The goals, according to the commission, are to reduce traffic clogging the roads and to allow for more people to enjoy the beaches by encouraging beach-goers to carpool, ride bicycles, or use remote park-and-ride services.The public lots at Siesta Beach and Turtle Beach, which together provide almost 1,300 parking spaces, typically fill up before midday during the winter season and on holidays.
The commission plans to hold a special workshop soon to consider the idea. The workshop will include topics such as expanded trolley routes for park-and-ride services, a bicycle sharing program, a traffic and parking study, and the possible addition of a new parking lot or parking garage.
Sarasota and Manatee counties have long offered free beach parking, but most other beach areas along Florida’s southwest coast charge for parking. In a survey of Siesta Key residents last year by the Siesta Key Association, 70% of those surveyed supported paid parking — as long as there was a way for residents to continue receiving free parking.
More information is available from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.