Day at beach likely to get a little more expensive

People who park on the road shoulder, which is now free parking, may be required to purchase a pass from the Isle of Palms if the city moves forward with the proposal. Sullivan’s Island is also considering a similar plan.

Grab the cooler, the umbrella and the sunscreen. And, oh, don’t forget the new beach parking pass.

This summer, that reminder could be key for Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island beachgoers as both communities work toward having a visitor parking pass.

“We’re still moving ahead. How quickly we can get it implemented is the issue. We will know on Tuesday when we see all the details,” said IOP Mayor Dick Cronin.

That is when staff and a consultant will make a presentation on beach parking at a meeting of the Council Ways and Means Committee.

IOP cleared a big hurdle when the state Department of Transportation said it was OK to regulate the road shoulder, which is state-owned right of way, by requiring a city parking pass.

On Sullivan’s, there has been concern that an IOP beach parking pass would cause visitors to flock to Sullivan’s if the parking there remains free.

“We are working toward a plan that can be implemented this summer,” said Town Manager Andy Benke.

Currently, town staff is completing an inventory of parking spaces, taking public comment from residents and reviewing payment options. The town has not hired a consultant to develop a parking plan, he said.

On both islands, the cost beach “day-trippers” would pay for a pass, how many would be issued and how they would be sold are among the issues to be resolved.

Sullivan’s and IOP officials have said a parking plan is a way to better manage the crush of visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They have described it as a safety issue, too, much like setting a legal occupancy for a building. Longer emergency response times on a crowded island is an concern, they said.

Charleston County EMS staff are schooled in dealing with those sorts of situations, the county said.

“Traffic congestion is never a good thing, but our medics are trained heavily in driving in traffic and maneuvering in tight situations, because traffic congestion exists all over the county,” said county spokesman Shawn Smetana in an e-mailed statement.

On both islands, parking is now available in the neighborhoods along road shoulders. The IOP commercial district has city and county lots with parking for a fee. IOP visitors often go to the neighborhoods, though, for free parking and a less crowded beach.

Folly Beach offers beachfront parking for a fee paid at kiosks up and down the island. There are also two county lots and several private lots available for a fee. Neighborhood street parking is still free, as long as the rules are obeyed.

The IOP parking-pass proposal would not apply to residents, long-term renters and those who visit them and park on private property.

Meanwhile, those who don’t want to buy a parking pass, if that becomes a reality, may have the option of taking the bus instead.

An ad hoc CARTA committee will present a report to the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority board on Wednesday about the feasibility of a park-and-ride beach shuttle.

“CARTA is happy to operate this type of service provided the necessary resources are made available,” said CARTA spokesman Daniel Brock.

“As is often the case, it’s really going to come down to funding and whether there is enough will to put skin in the game,” he said.

That would most likely mean funding from local governments, he said.