ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – The Parking Saga for the barrier islands continues on as new legislation in Columbia is expected to be introduced later this week. This new legislation, Senate Bill 40, would ultimately allow free parking to be guaranteed at South Carolina beaches.
The fight over parking on Palm Boulevard has been going on for months, and this legislation could settle things between South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and beach leaders in the Lowcountry.
The city of Mount Pleasant plans to meeting Tuesday and is expected to announce their support of the legislation.
It’s been a slow taking away of parking that these barrier islands have done. I mean Sullivan’s Island 5 or 6 years ago reduced their parking by a decent amount as well. So it’s been something that they’ve slowly been doing in the name of safety. But really those beaches don’t belong to them—they belong to everyone.Jake Rambo, Mount Pleasant City Councilman
Councilman Rambo with City of Mount Pleasant said right now, the council’s role is advocacy. They are letting their residents know where they stand as leaders and pushing residents to call state legislators to ask for support with the new bill.
Councilman Rambo said that reasons heard before by the barrier island for why more paid parking is necessary is no longer substantial in his eyes. For Isle of Palms specifically, Rambo said he found that they budget that beach visitors cost them $500,000 annually, but in 2019, they brought in more than $800,000 with the paid parking they already have at front beach.
He added that, “trying to add additional paid parking all along palm boulevard, in the name of recovering costs is definitely disingenuous.”
If it’s not in the name of budgeting, Isle of Palms Resident Ben Marks said the next thought is that deterring many from the beach is for decreasing COVID-19 numbers and gatherings. However, Marks believes the plan to remove free parking for IOP has been long in the making but was just implemented in the wrong time.
I think it should always be done ideally with inviting this non-profit that is representing the broader interests of people here, just make sure people know their voices are being heard, but also I think the state is setting clear guidance for the islands can and can’t do.Ben Marks, IOP Resident
Marks said he does think a parking plan will eventually have to be worked out as more are projected to move to the Lowcountry in the coming years. But for now with the pandemic continuing, it can be tabled.