Gulf Shores approves beach parking fee increases

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 12/21/22

GULF SHORES — Parking will be more expensive at more locations for Gulf Shores beach visitors following action by the city council.After debate in which business owners and one city council …

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Gulf Shores approves beach parking fee increases

Posted

GULF SHORES — Parking will be more expensive at more locations for Gulf Shores beach visitors following action by the city council.

After debate in which business owners and one city council member questioned some aspects of the plan, the Gulf Shores City Council voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 12, to increase parking fees on city beaches.

Under the plan, parking fees in paid areas will increase from $10 a day to $15. The city will also require paid parking at 108 additional spaces in the beach area. The plan would also eliminate the current option to pay $5 for four hours at most locations.

Councilman Steve Jones proposed keeping the four-hour option for visitors who were not staying at the beach the entire day.

"I think $15 is kind of excessive for someone who may not be staying the whole day and I would support allowing $5 for partial day fee for all of the locations and take and removing the all day for $15 in those specific locations," Jones said.

A motion by Jones to allow four-hour parking at a reduced rate died when no other council member seconded the proposal.

Steve Spellman, one of the owners of the restaurant Bahama Bob's, said he worried that the move would hurt beachfront businesses, such as his.

"I don't think either one of you would like to have a restaurant where you have to pay to get into the door. That wouldn't be your first choice. That's why I'm against it. I don't know what it's going to do. You don't know what it's going to do," Spellman said.

Michael Taylor of Poole and Associates Vacation Rentals said he did not think the increase would bring in as much money as city officials expected.

"I do have concerns," Taylor said. "We certainly do appreciate all the efforts that the council does in maintaining the beaches. That is the resource that draws the customers down here, but I'm not sure you're going to see the return that's projected."

Grant Brown, city recreation and cultural affairs director, said that while parking fees generated about $659,000 in 2017, enough to cover almost all the $694,000 in beach expenses, revenue has not kept up with expenses.
In 2022, the city had $760,000 in parking fees, but beach expenses were about $1.7 million.

Councilman Phillip Harris said the city has to maintain the beaches that generate much of the community's economy.

"We spend a lot of money keeping our beaches in our front yards as pristine as we do," Harris said. "The services that are there that are provided, not only for our visitors, but for our residents. We talk about this being a revenue generator for the council. It's not just the council, it's the city, it's us."

He said programs that have increased expenses are needed to keep the beaches clean.

"These services, if we do away with them, we've got a mess on our beach, and we saw what that looked like before we implemented the Leave Only Footprints and the recycling program and put the trash cans everywhere and paved the parking lot," Harris said. "So, I see this as a communitywide benefit, and we invite our guests down here and we need to give them an exceptional place to visit."

Paid parking is in effect at beaches from March 1 until Nov. 30.

The city now charges for parking at Gulf Place, West Gulf Place, West Sixth Street and Lagoon Pass Park. A parking area with 90 spaces at East Gulf Place is also restricted to residents, under the plan.

Under the new plan, parking fees would also be charged at public areas at West Fifth Street south of Alabama 182 with 27 spaces, West 10th Street north of Alabama 182 with 17 spaces and West 13th Street north of Alabama 182 with 64 spaces.

Four-hour parking for $5 would still be an option at the West Fifth Street and Gulf Place parking areas. Brown said that option would allow visitors who were dining at restaurants in the area to use the parking spaces for a lower fee.

Residents with a Gulf Shores hurricane decal can park at the sites at no charge, city officials said.

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