Dozens of Walton County residents and county leaders turned out in Sandestin Wednesday Night to hear the initial findings of a parking needs study in South Walton. The County Commission requested the assessment as it works to address limited public parking along Scenic Gulf Drive and Scenic Highway 30-A.
Tonia Nation, with AVCON Inc. and a South Walton Native, presented the engineering firm's findings. Engineers analyzed current public parking facilities, potential parking improvement options, and demand for public parking along Scenic Gulf Drive and Scenic Highway 30-A.
Commissioners said the lack of parking is not just an inconvenience for visitors and business owners but creates safety concerns. "When people can't have proper parking, they will find a place to park and sometimes in your driveway, blocking, so it has been a problem for years," Commissioner Sara Comander, District 4, said. "This study, even though it's taken a while to complete, is so thorough."
Nation said one of the largest concerns is parking on the right-of-way. County Ordinance currently allows parking on the side of the roads along the corridor, but some communities have posted "No Parking" signs. "If you drive along 30-A today, there are no parking signs, in some areas, they are as close as every ten feet," Nation added.
"If you modify the ordinance to make it more of a prohibitive ordinance and allow parking where there is designated spaces or they are clearly delineated with signage, it could help alleviate some of those issues you're seeing today," Nation suggested in her presentation.
The South Walton corridor currently has 985 existing public parking spaces. The study shows there's potential for the county to create 254 spaces within five years and an additional 189 spaces within 15 years depending on demand.
The study also suggest replacing "No Parking" signs with other signs that would point visitors to public areas where they could park and access the beaches.
Commissioner Comander said she was pleased with the initial findings of the study, especially as engineers made suggestions that would maintain the look and atmosphere of South Walton.
"We want to make sure, and that's why we've taken our time, to make sure that every citizen, whether you're a resident or business owner, has a chance to voice their opinion and let us know how they think we can solve the problem," Comander added.
The study does not address traffic and transportation studies, evaluation of private and off-street parking requirements, and parking in Sandestin, WaterSound, or Rosemary Beach.