No more free parking at the beach?

February 12, 2009 5:02:50 PM PST
The days of parking for free along the Galveston seawall may soon be over. There's a proposal in the works to put parking meters up on the seawall, in part, to help pay for the recovery after Hurricane Ike. It's a plan that has been shot down in the past. But now, city leaders say paid parking along the seawall would be a big help to the struggling city. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Five years ago, a petition signed by Galveston residents basically squashed this issue. But now, after Hurricane Ike, some residents think the city should try again.

Mike Minott, Sr., spends a good amount of his time jamming out on the seawall. So when he hears talk of a parking fee, his tune turns sour.

"People are having a hard enough time recovering from the storm, and then it's like one extra tax burden," he said.

But it's that burden proponents say they want to relieve. The Galveston Park Board of Trustees is proposing the fee, they say, to help the city get back on its feet.

Galveston Park Board Chairwoman Jeri Kinnear explained, "We would like to use this money for beach nourishment, for beach safety."

Under the proposal, parking on the seawall would be similar to other beach parks, where visitors already pay $8 a day or $25 for a season pass. Proponents say with special events like the upcoming Mardi Gras, the city is missing out on a fortune. All that money would go towards the seawall, easing the burden on the city budget.

Driver Melody Aber said, "Definitely, it would help, and I wouldn't mind paying to do that."

But opponents say the city already has a beach fund -- a sales tax passed in November. They worry if the city begins to charge to park, tourists won't come as often.

"I think it will do a great amount of damage to our city," said opponent Gregory Roof. "It will hurt jobs. It will hurt our businesses, and it will discourage investment in our island."

"I think the city needs to make money, too, you know, but there's different ways to go about it," Minott said.

Because of that petition five years ago, the public has to vote on this issue. The earliest it could make it on a ballot is March.

Our attempts to reach Galveston's mayor and other city council members were unsuccessful.

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