MOUNT PLEASANT -- A few prized parking spots for Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge walkers and runners are on the chopping block. Again.
Town Council on Tuesday will consider its police chief's recommendation to no longer allow parking on a stretch of Patriots Point Boulevard.
"My concern is someone is going to be hurt or killed," Police Chief Harry Sewell said Thursday.
Some see the recommendation as another way governments are cracking down or charging for parking for those who want to exercise or enjoy the great outdoors. Sullivan's Island, where parking is free on all public streets, also is considering a paid-parking plan.
In Mount Pleasant, near-misses involving boulevard drivers and people who park on the roadside to exercise on the bridge happen all the time, Sewell said. No so far no one has been injured, he said, but "it's just a matter of time."
Council's Police, Legal and Judicial Committee this week voted in favor of closing 400 feet of roadside or an estimated 15 parking spaces on the north side of the boulevard beginning where its intersects with Coleman Boulevard.
Around the area, parking is at a premium as municipalities turn to parking fees as revenue generators. The Isle of Palms and Folly Beach charge $1 per hour at beach parking kiosks. "We've been at it for two or three years," Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said of the town charging for parking. "I didn't vote for it."
Parking revenue has been used to pay for outdoor showers at the "washout," a popular surfing spot at Folly, Goodwin said.
Parking meter collections generate about 3 percent of the Isle of Palms general fund revenues, said Treasurer Debbie Schimsa Suggs.
Free parking for bridge runners and walkers in Mount Pleasant is available farther up Patriots Point Boulevard at College of Charleston athletic fields. Closing the boulevard roadside parking is not an attempt to force people to pay 50 cents per hour to park at nearby Memorial Waterfront Park, Town Councilman Nick Collins said.
Collins said the road shoulder parking on Patriots Point Boulevard is dangerous. "It's just such a bad intersection. We just really need to get control of it. It's just a mess," Collins said. The situation is a "big liability waiting to happen, " he said.
Although Mount Pleasant has mostly free parking, local parking fees are plentiful. Parking at the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission's Folly Beach pier is $7. It typically costs $5 for a parking space at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center. A downtown Charleston parking garage space costs up to $16 per day.
Glenn Hair of Daniel Island said the situation is irritating. He talked about paying $5 to park for two hours so he could take his daughter to a children's museum. "That (parking fees) is my absolute pet peeve. That really bugs me. That's really one of those things that gets me," he said.
Hair discussed parking fees before exercising on the Ravenel Bridge after parking his car at a convenience store on Patriots Point Boulevard. He said he has seen thousands of people cross the boulevard to exercise on the bridge without getting hurt. "I don't think it's as dangerous as they say it is," Hair said.
It's possible to cross the street safely by going to a traffic light at the intersection of Patriots Point and Coleman boulevards, he said. The boulevard roadside parking is the shortest sweaty walk to the cool bridge breezes. "Most people don't want to do this part of the walk. The bridge is where it's at. It's stifling down here," he said.
Mount Pleasant police studied Patriots Point Boulevard roadside parking in the fall of 2008 and concluded that it was hazardous and should be banned except during special events. However, in February 2009, the town administration decided not to bring the issue to council, and it dropped off the radar until now.
"We decided to revisit it for safety reasons," Collins said.