A proposed parking lot could bring salvation for residents and visitors next year.
With Fourth of July around the corner, one of everyone’s biggest concerns is parking — especially at the site of one of the area’s most popular fireworks shows.
It’s a problem Siesta Key residents struggle with every holiday — like Siesta Estates resident Lori Jasper on Memorial Day. When people parked just outside the gated community’s wall, on land the residents recently paid $16,000 to have landscaped, Jasper was told by the Sheriff’s Office deputies couldn’t enforce parking issues on private property.
“I know it’s a beautiful beach, and I know we want to share it,” Jasper said, “but I believe people who come here should respect it.”
The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it is the responsibility of condo management to monitor parking issues.
Management at some condominiums on the island say they hire security to keep an eye on their parking lots.
“We hire an employee on overtime on the Fourth to just direct people away,” said Excelsior Beach to Bay Property Manager Dan Watnem.
Horizons Siesta hires a security guard as well, who ultimately will put locking devices on cars that are not where they should be.
Other condominiums install gates to keep nonresidents out, which is an option Watnem is considering for his property. He said it may be more practical to not give people the option to get in.
For people visiting the Key, the temptation to park in the first spot you see is understandable, but resident and Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mark Smith suggests the best way might be to avoid the problem altogether.
“My first recommendation to anyone on and off the Key is to find another way to get to the beach, or see the fireworks, without driving. Anything but driving the car.”
Smith recommends riding a bike (carefully) or using the Siesta
Key Breeze trolley, which runs between 8 a.m. and midnight between Siesta Village and Turtle Beach. Watnem agrees.
“[Parking is] a growing problem, but with this Breeze trolley, I think that’s a good thing for a lot of folks — both the owners here and people who can park in a different area,” Watnem said.
Those wishing to head to Siesta Key for Fourth of July can do what Smith recommended and bike over from the mainland. A representative of Sarasota County Area Transit said no buses will be running on July 4.
If you do take your car, parking can be found in the Siesta Village, at Siesta Beach or at some churches on the island.
The Sheriff’s Office recommends getting there early — last year, the main parking lot filled up by 9 a.m. each day that weekend. The Sheriff’s Office also recommends carpooling or trying a service like Uber, and encourages everyone to “pack your patience.”