It’s a common complaint on Longboat Key. To help address it, Public Works officials are gearing up for peak season by adding as many as 19 parking spaces to Bayfront Park.
The increasing popularity of pickleball at the public park prompted the Public Works Department to investigate ways to mitigate parking issues during peak hours.
Pickleball players won’t be the only ones benefiting. Bayfront Park sees fitness classes, tennis players and public beach access.
When Bayfront Park was renovated in 2017, there were a total of 60 parking spaces: 52 regular, 7 accessible parking spots and one electric vehicle charging spot.
In March, six spots were added followed by three more in July. At the end of September, Public Works completed the addition of five more parking spots by the dog park.
That’s 14 new spaces, a 23% increase in parking since 2017.
“Compared to what we’re seeing in terms of these parking conflicts, we don’t ever remember 14 people circling around looking for parking spaces,” Director of Public Works Isaac Brownman said. “So we think that’s a pretty significant improvement.”
Brownman brought more good news to the commission at the Sept. 26 workshop — he received a draft lease from Frontier Communications to utilize 10-14 spots on their property, which is located near the center of Bayfront Park.
All Public Works has to do is keep up with vegetation trimming and pick up trash, but the town wouldn’t have to pay for the parking.
“We thought that’s a fantastic deal,” Brownman said.
Currently, the park has three courts dedicated to pickleball with two shared courts between pickleball and tennis.
Though Brownman thinks the increase in parking will mostly solve the problem, he discussed some options to consider if the additional parking doesn’t help, or if the added parking only encourages more activity in the park.
The concept of open play is important to the social aspect of pickleball, Brownman said, which he learned while talking with the pickleball community.
Open play is when players place their paddle in a queue to determine who will play on the next available court. This allows for interaction among players, oftentimes giving the opportunity to meet new people.
To manage busy times, identified as 9 a.m. to noon, Brownman said four main solutions were discussed. Options would be to change open play times based on skill level, restrict open play to afternoons only or create a reservation system.
But all are less preferred than the main option, which is to re-stripe the remaining tennis court for shared use. The idea, Brownman said, is that by adding two more courts then players could cycle through quicker.
Mayor Ken Schneier and other commissioners were in favor of re-striping, and directed Brownman to do so once the parking was added from Frontier.