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Date of Issue: April 05, 2007

SR64 shoulder is makeshift parking lot

hb parking pic
New parking lot opens in Holmes Beach
Visitors to the Manatee Public Beach last week found a new location to park their vehicles after the public parking lot at the beach quickly filled to capacity on many days. The right of way along Manatee Avenue was apparently a convenient spot for a new - if only temporary - parking lot. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Vacationer Robert Hodges had little trouble finding a place to plant his beach chair March 29, but he first struggled to find a spot to park his Jeep Cherokee.

Hodges drove in and out of the crowded parking lot at Manatee Public Beach, cruised through a nearby neighborhood and pondered borrowing a spot at the Publix grocery store before pulling off to the side of Manatee Avenue.

"I didn't see any sign that I couldn't," he said as he loaded his chair and cooler into the diagonally parked SUV and prepared to return to a hotel room in Bradenton.

The driver of a red BMW sedan waited nearby for Hodges' to vacate his space on the grass along Manatee Avenue. She waited impatiently, honking her horn every 30 seconds to remind Hodges of her presence.

"There's not enough parking out here," Hodges said. "Someone flipping flipped me off when I parked here. I'm like, ‘Do you want tourists or not?'"

In the parking lot of the Publix, some full-time Island residents hesitated in answering that question.

"Well, to be honest, I do and I don't want the tourists," said Sally Anderson, of Holmes Beach. "I know they are our lifeblood, but oh the traffic and the parking."

While spots for a blanket on the beach were plentiful last week, parking was at a premium, especially in the vicinity of Manatee Public Beach.

"I know it's a mess," said Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine. "These two out of 52 weeks are the worst for parking.... Everybody wants to come to the beach."

Romine said he and his officers are monitoring the situation near the public beach, but there's a limit to what can be done to remedy the overflow.

Parking along Manatee Avenue near Gulf Drive, for example, is not against the law unless a vehicle is double-parked or blocks the road.

"We have issued quite a few tickets to blatant violators," Romine said. "But the bottom line is, where are you going to go?"

"It's not uncommon and it's legal as long as they are not obstructing traffic," Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said regarding the parking along Manatee Avenue, a state road policed by the city.

City officials and residents said the situation highlights the need to increase ridership on the buses to the Island and the free trolley on the Island.

"I wish we'd see more beach crowds on the buses coming out here," said Anna Maria resident Julia Beales. "But I guess I can't shake a finger. I ride the trolley about twice a month."

The situation, according to Bohnenberger, also highlights the need for additional parking on the Island. "But," he added, "I don't know where you'd find it."

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