IOP limits free summer parking on neighborhood streets

Beach visitors will have less free roadside parking this summer at Isle of Palms.

ISLE OF PALMS — Beach daytrippers will compete for less free parking on the island next summer because many neighborhood streets will be off-limits.

City Council recently approved the change in response to long-standing complaints from residents about traffic congestion and unruly crowds.

“We’re trying to create a better quality of life,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Loftus.

The city wants to encourage carpooling to the beach, he said.

Roadside parking will be allowed on Palm Boulevard between 21st Avenue and 57th Avenue and on the first block off Ocean Boulevard from 3rd Avenue to 9th Avenue.

Parking on other island streets will be for residents, tenants and guests under a new parking permit program. Residents may apply for a neighborhood street-parking permit starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the island recreation center on 28th Avenue. No permit is required to park on private property.

The parking permit is free but proof of residency is required.

Beach visitors on Wednesday had mixed reactions to the parking changes effective from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 15 to Sept. 15.

“I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s next? Charge to go to the beach? We love it here. I would hate to see them restrict parking,” said Daniela Hoag of Mount Pleasant.

Beach visitor Colin Franks of Charleston said he likes free parking, but the new rules are not necessarily a bad idea. “If it helps cut down on traffic that is something that I’m about,” he said.

On hectic summer weekends, Palm Boulevard fills with visitors who park on the shoulder of the road. Daytrippers flock into the neighborhoods looking for more free roadside parking. That has resulted in complaints about trash, noise and drunken behavior.

Resident Nedra Campbell said that she has experienced those sorts of problems with some who visit the island for the day, but she does not want to deny people the right to go to the beach.

“It’s just a bad situation and I don’t know the answer,” she said.

An island parking garage would be an eyesore, she said.

She worries about EMS being able to reach she and her husband when the island is packed with visitors. “My main concern is the safety,” she said.

County EMS officials have said crews are trained to effectively respond in thick beach traffic.

The city has pay-parking lots in the commercial district, and there is a pay lot at the county park. The county and city lots, with a combined capacity of 2,000 vehicles, are full on the busiest weekends, such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Thousands more spill into the neighborhoods to park on road shoulders.

Neighboring Sullivan’s Island has been considering the parking issue, too, with an eye toward possible changes for next summer. Town Council has made no final decisions but it is receiving advice from a consultant.

“We’re moving ahead with the planning part,” said Sullivan’s Island Mayor Pat O’Neil.