FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The days of free parking at Lynn Hall Memorial Park and Bowditch Point Park have come to an end, as these well-known spots begin charging for parking once again, reflecting the ongoing recovery and shifting dynamics in the area.
Ever since the reopening of the beaches on March 4th, post-Hurricane Ian, parking at these locations had been complimentary. However, with the town slowly recovering, parking fees have made a return, bringing a mix of opinions from the community.
Melissa Sheppard, the owner of Meli's Ice-Cream near Times Square, expressed her reservations about the timing of the fee reinstatement, stating it could have adverse effects on businesses still in the process of recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
"It's definitely going to have a negative impact on us, the few of us that are left here at Times Square, that are trying to rebuild and come back from Hurricane Ian."
Other beachgoers had different views regarding the return of parking fees. Stephen DiMassimo, a visitor to Fort Myers Beach, recognized the inevitability of the fees, viewing it as a step towards returning to normalcy.
"I think at some point they're going to have to start anyway; it's getting a little better down here and I think two dollars isn't too bad."
Anthony Bone, the owner of Anthony Bone Painting, viewed it as a necessary measure to boost the town's revenue during challenging times. He stated,
"The town more than needs the revenue with all the things that are down right now. I think two dollars an hour is a fair start."
The reintroduction of parking fees at Bowditch Point Park and Lynn Hall Memorial Park, comes with a rate of $2 per hour. However, individuals with the Lee County Annual Parks Pass can continue to park for free at Bowditch.
Parking revenue contributes significantly to the town's finances. In 2019, before the hurricane and the pandemic, the town’s budget reported more than $1.2 million dollars collected in parking, about 6% of the budget in that year.