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Destin residents gain free beach parking; Non-residents will pay beginning July 1

At Monday night’s Destin City Council meeting, the city of Destin voted 4-3 to implement a “Free Resident Beach Parking Pass Program” for all residents within the incorporated area of Destin. This parking pass will be for public beach access parking areas along Scenic Highway 98 in Crystal Beach and Gulf Shore Drive in Holiday Isle. Non-residents will begin paying on July 1.

How we got here: On November 4th, 2019, Council passed a motion to direct the City Manager to continue with the current paid parking app system in City Parking lots and add the parking in Crystal Beach and Gulf Shore Drive as short-term parking with the rate of $5 per 5 hours and no parking from dusk to dawn; and that the city provide passes to residents.

On January 6, 2020, Council voted to adopt a presented resident beach parking pass program that allows for free parking on Scenic Highway 98 in Crystal Beach and Gulf Shore Drive in Holiday Isle and have the program in place by March 1, 2020. Due to COVID-19, the program was delayed from being implemented on the original target date of March 1.

As of now: City facilities are now partially open and can process passes in-person or virtually. The virtual application process for the resident beach parking will be similar to the existing Joe’s Bayou and Henderson Beach pass system. Residents can apply for a resident parking pass online or in-person.

The residential pass program will be free for all full-time residents of Destin and will offer 2 passes per eligible household. It will be administered in similar ways that the Joe’s Bayou and Henderson Beach Pass program is administered.

Each full-time resident will have to provide a tag number that will correspond with each registered resident beach pass permit issued.

According to city documents, paid parking fees are to be earmarked for maintaining the existing program and to fund future parking projects within the City.

The original hours that were discussed for the paid parking spots were from Dawn till Dusk, however that was amended for the hours of 3:00am-11:00pm to better accommodate fishing charters while preventing the spots from being used for overnight parking.

Councilman Chatham Morgan tried to table the discussion indefinitely with Councilman Parker Destin seconding the motion.

“One of the problems we have here in Destin is we market for people to come down here and we have all of these short-term rentals and hotels without deeded beach access, and then tourists get down here to go to the beautiful beaches of Destin and they don’t have anywhere to park”, said Councilman Chatham Morgan. “So now on top of going to a 50ft beach access that is jam-packed and not enjoyable, we are asking them to pay for what meager parking we have.”

Councilman Parker Destin echoed Mr. Morgan.

“It feels a bit like we are needling them [non-residents] over something we necessarily shouldn’t”, said Councilman Parker Destin. “This just seems like such a small amount of parking that it just doesn’t seem right.  I think it’s bad for the Okaloosa residents that use our beaches.”

Yay – Councilman Rodney Braden
Yay – Councilman Steven Menchel
Yay – Councilman Skip Overdier
Yay – Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell
Nay – Councilman Parker Destin
Nay – Councilman Cyron Marler
Nay – Councilman Chatham Morgan

Maps

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