MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Myrtle Beach City Council is standing by its plan to end most free parking along the stretch of Ocean Boulevard known as the Golden Mile.
Thousands of people have protested the plan, more than 4,000 have signed various online petitions to bring back free parking to the boulevard, including one written by a group of students from Horry County Schools.
Despite the public petitions, city councilman Wayne Gray said that side of the argument is over and enforcement will start in two months or less.
“We are not going back to free parking,” said Gray.
Signage needs to go up and an enforcement plan still being developed; councilman Gray said that will take from 30 to 45 days. He expects a grace period after that of about two weeks to inform the public of the changes through warnings.
Councilman Gray says there’s no chance going back to free parking in one of the fastest growing areas in the country.
“We knew this day was coming and it falls under the broader discussion of the growth that this area,” said Gray.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, Myrtle Beach set the record for tourists three years in a row; and had the second highest rate of people moving here from around the country, for the second year in a row.
“And it has challenges associated with it,” said Gray.
Councilman Gray says parking is a symptom of that growth, “you have more people wanting to park there than there are parking spaces allowed.”
To handle it, city council ended free parking for everyone but city residents with decals on the east side of Ocean Boulevard, along the avenues and in beach access spots.
Everyone else will need to pay $4 an hour or $20 a day, which is twice the going rate in the rest of the city, and only in beach access stops. The boulevard and avenues are decal parking only.
“I think its ridiculous nobody is going to want to come down here for $20 a day,” said Myrtle Beach resident John Moore.
According to councilman Gray, that’s the whole point.
“If you have an area that is over parked and you want to move it to other areas you do a number of things one is, you charge more for that area then you do the other areas,” said Gray.
Gray says the goal is to move the overflow to other areas but for some people when you fix one thing, something else has to give.
“It will either deter us from coming to the beach at all or determine where we stay at,” said Sean Tiley, a vacationer from Toronto.
Tiley stayed at the same hotel and parked on the Golden Mile at the same spot both times he’s visited.
“You’ve got this place that’s not on the main strip that’s a little bit more secluded, I think it’s a little bit better for families,” said Tiley.
Tiley said the thought of adding $20 a day to a week-long trip, may make him, pick a new destination in the future.
“Because it’s not that much further to go to Florida and to be honest we know a lot of places down there where, although you do have to pay for parking, it’s not nearly that expensive,” said Tiley.
Councilman Gray says the issue of parking will continue to be looked at by city council moving forward.