Kevin Wentzel of Lexington thinks nothing of hopping onto his motorcycle with his wife Sandy for a day trip to Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island.
Finding a beach season-parking place on the islands, though, isn't easy.
"They don't have enough parking, that's for sure. During the summer, it's real crazy getting a parking space. You can't even find a spot to put the motorcycle," he said.
The Wentzels on Thursday day-tripped to Sullivan's, where they sat on a bench at Breach Inlet soaking up the sun and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.
Kevin Wentzel said IOP paid parking is scarce in the lazy days of summer. "Many times we've been over there and everything was full," he said.
But that could be changing. Recently, IOP has begun looking at new approaches to the age-old problem of day-visitor parking.
The IOP Planning Commission last week completed three forums to gather public input on the parking issue. Suggestions included a garage and shuttle system.
Commission member Diane Oltorik said the idea is viable, but it would create other issues. A garage in the commercial district would concentrate even more people onto an already overcrowded beach. Public rest rooms on shuttle stops might be necessary, she said.
"It really is such a hard solution. You do one thing and there's another problem," she said.
Sullivan's Mayor Carl Smith said Town Council has hired a consultant to look at the feasibility of paid parking for town lots on Middle Street and Ion Avenue. That, though, would likely drive more day visitors into residential areas, so a parking-sticker program might also be needed, he said.
Folly Beach will have space for 400 fewer cars next summer, because the county park there is closed due to storm damage.
Parking and beach access are key components of the state-approved beach management plan for each community for eligibility for beach-renourishment financial aid.
Hurricane Irene hammered the Folly Beach County Park, which is not expected to reopen until the summer of 2013. In the interim, new sand will be pumped onto the beach and a groin will be built at the Stono River end of the park to trap sand, county Park and Recreation Commission Executive Director Tom O'Rourke said.
Folly has $1 hourly parking at 300 spaces scattered along the beach. The county-owned pier there has 80 parking spaces for $7 per day. A commercial lot across from the pier has dozens of parking spaces.
Some visitors have suggested a daily rate for the 300 city-owned parking spaces instead of hourly, said Mayor Tim Goodwin. "That's the biggest complaint. You have to keep running back and forth," he said.
On IOP, the county park lot is full by 11 a.m. during beach season. "The Isle of Palms right now, there's just nowhere to go. Everybody gets over there and there's just nowhere to go when you get there," O'Rourke said.
The PRC would be open to building a parking garage if IOP agreed, he said.
No easy fix
Public suggestions to the IOP Planning Commission include a ban on parking in residential areas. In the coming months, the commission will make recommendations to City Council on island day-tripper parking.
"If there was an easy fix that everybody could turn to, we would do it immediately," said IOP Mayor Dick Cronin.
Most beach visitors leave behind only footprints in the sand, but a small minority draw the ire of residents because they are not courteous in behavior and action, he said.
Complaints have ranged from littering to public urination.
"A lot of it has to do with the trash," Cronin said.
Safety also has been an issue. In response, the town now requires that cars park at least 4 feet off the road on Palm Boulevard, Cronin said.
Ocean Boulevard resident Will Millman said day-tripper parking should be restricted to the commercial area and not allowed in neighborhoods.
"It's not that we don't want day visitors. They just need to park in the parking lots. These are residential areas. We don't want cars parked out in front of our homes and driveways," Millman said.
There are 983 pay parking spaces on IOP, but the cost -- up to $7 -- drives visitors into the neighborhoods.
Awendaw resident Kent Prause, who visits the island to surf, said he parks in a residential area but it is on public right of way on the shoulder of state roads.
"The beach belongs to everybody," Prause said.
About 4,000 people call IOP home. Last July, more than 500,000 people traveled from the mainland to the island, according to one study.
In addition to two city lots and the county park lot, IOP has metered spaces on commercial Ocean Boulevard. Visitors can park on any road right of way unless there is a no-parking sign. All four wheels must be off the road and no beach access paths can be blocked.
At Folly, parking is allowed in residential areas on the road right of way if all four tires are off the road. Visitors must park in the same direction as traffic.
On Sullivan's, visitors who are not patronizing an island business can park along the street with vehicle tires off the road but not in residents' yards or driveway, according to the town website.
Parking rules on the islands go back to common sense and common manners, said Vicki Clark, a Sullivan's resident.
"It's just respect for everybody," she said.