BALOG COLUMN: Free parking in Mount Pleasant
Carol Byrnes and Tiffney Cullum got a nice surprise Wednesday morning when they returned to the parking lot at Memorial Waterfront Park after walking the Ravenel Bridge.
Mount Pleasant Public Service crews were removing a parking kiosk right where they'd parked.
The pair, who have been walking the bridge at least three times a week for a year and a half, had bought annual parking passes so they wouldn't have to feed the meter.
Now they won't need to do either.
“It makes me very happy,” said Byrnes, who added that her pass was about to expire and now she doesn't have to renew it.
Cullum, who lives in Awendaw and therefore paid $10 more for her annual pass than Byrnes, who lives in Mount Pleasant, was equally pleased.
Town crews had already removed five of the 10 kiosks by just after 9 a.m. Today, those kiosks are a distant memory.
By most accounts, the kiosks didn't inspire the same kind of outrage as the ones on Folly Beach near the Washout, but they were a source of complaints, at least for Mayor Billy Swails.
“The few complaints I've gotten were 'Why do you charge for parking down there?' ” Swails said.
It's the economy
Back in 2008, when they were considering adding parking meters at Patriots Point Boulevard (an idea that went over like a flat tire for the bicyclists and pedestrians) then-Councilman Swails said: “We don't have any parking meters in Mount Pleasant. I realize it's time to get into the 21st century.”
Swails said things were different then. The economy was, well, bad, and the town was looking for new revenue sources.
“In 2008 we didn't have any money,” Swails said. “I think we realize now that the park is free, the parking should be free.”
He said the thought the process behind the meters was that they could pay for police coverage at the park. But by the time the maintenance costs were factored in, there wasn't much revenue to be had.
“We don't have them anywhere else,” Swails said. “We're not going to have them on Coleman. Seven of us (on council) just felt like we didn't need them anymore.”
A warmer welcome
Councilwoman Linda Page spearheaded the effort to get them removed. She wasn't on the council when the park opened, but she felt strongly that parking meters weren't the best welcome to the town for visitors.
“It is the pride and joy of Mount Pleasant,” Page said of the park. “I didn't see identifying it as a revenue source.”
She said if the town wants to go the paid-parking route, it should be a consistent effort.
“I just think it's the town's responsibility to provide the parking,” she said.
People more readily, or perhaps less grudgingly, accept parking meters as a cost of doing business in a retail area like King Street, or at beach access points. But there's really no need for paid parking at the park. The goodwill generated by the town's gesture should easily outweigh the small loss in revenue.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.