Here is a great article from the local Savannah paper discussing the parking, trash and toilet challenges our island is facing. The very good news is that our vacation rental guests don’t have the problem of parking but I thought this was still a very good article to share with all our readers. I”m sorry this is so long, but I’d rather have you all read what you want because it’s good info. The article is by Arlinda Smith Broady of the Savannah newspaper.
“With Tybee Island geared to have its best tourism season ever this summer, some of the same problems that have plagued the beach community in the past may be exacerbated.
The popularity of Miley Cyrus’ coming-of-age role in Disney’s “The Last Song,” coupled with a year of travel accolades and Gulf Coast tourists headed for relatively cleaner shores, could make the perennial unholy trinity of trash, parking and bathrooms that much more challenging.
“We welcome everybody to our community,” said Mayor Jason Buelterman. “We have one of the few beaches with complete access to the public. Even though it’s only 2 miles long, it’s a lot to take care of and we ask the public to help us do that.”
Leave only footprints
A new ordinance passed last year by Tybee Island City Council will perhaps cause the most uproar this summer.
Dubbed the “trash must be in a container” ordinance, the legislation requires that visitors keep their litter contained while on the beach and left in trash bins when they leave.
If you are on the beach, your litter must be placed in a bag or receptacle or you will be fined $100, even if that litter has not blown away from your site. Fines increase to as much as $200 for second offenders.
The ordinance isn’t meant to be oppressive, said City Manager Diane Schleicher.
“This new law is meant to keep the beaches clean,” she said.
For anyone who has spent time on the beach, it’s obvious strong winds along the shoreline present a challenge in controlling trash, she added.
A moment’s inattention can send beach umbrellas and chairs hurtling down the beach. Lightweight items, such as shopping sacks, Styrofoam containers, napkins or aluminum cans can be far down the beach before one is even aware they’re gone. Items scattered all over your site are simply harder to control. For this reason, trash on the beach must be kept in an appropriate container at all times.
For many, when litter is out of sight, it’s out of mind. But unrecovered trash impacts wildlife when it’s swept out to sea.
Schleicher said she’d heard about a right whale that died and when the animal was cut open to determine a cause of death, its belly was full of plastics.
If you think there’s not enough trash on the beach to kill a whale, consider these statistics:
— The city’s public works department sends out a crew of three to ten workers every morning, year round, for three to six hours with a 7-ton trailer and tractor, a front-end loader and a pickup truck.
— Crews pick up and haul off as much as 35 tons of waste from the beach and cross-over areas every single morning.
— Litter adds up to at least 1,200 tons of waste removed from the beaches annually.
— The city uses 2,500 man hours at a cost of more than $500,000 a year to pick up trash.
— Another 3,600 tons of waste is hauled to the landfill from other sources on the island every year.
The cleanup is time-consuming, mainly because it’s so spread out – a can here, a bottle 10 feet away, a plastic bag 15 feet farther.
Trash deposited in the barrels is handled in less than five minutes; the crew can spend as long as 20 minutes working to pick up those individual items at each of the 23 crossovers to the beaches.
The purpose of the added fines and increased enforcement is to try to make us all better stewards of the island and its wildlife and to preserve city revenues for expenses that are not so easily controlled by visitors and residents, Schleicher said.
Look for more trash cans and recycle bins so the public works staff can concentrate on other things.
“I’d say about 85 or 90 percent of the people who visit the beach take care of their trash. But that other 10 to 15 percent make a lot of work for everyone else,” said Buelterman. “The city plans on stepping up enforcement of our littering ordinance this year but would like nothing more than for our visitors to leave only their footprints behind.”
Find a parking space
Before you can concern yourself with litter, you’ll have to find someplace to park. Although the island hasn’t gotten any bigger, the city has squeezed about as much space as it could to accommodate automobiles.
“We don’t have an exact number of spaces,” Schleicher said. “With the pay-and-display parking there aren’t distinct lines drawn, so it really depends on the size of the vehicles.”
She estimated there are as many as 2,000 spots throughout the island, but with busy days bringing in 10 times that number of people, tempers may get as hot as the summer sand when searching for parking.
In recent years, the city has allowed residents to charge for parking on their properties, but that wouldn’t account for many more spaces and would be left up to the discretion of the owner.
“For the 100 days of summer, we ask visitors to try alternative days and bring patience along with their sunblock and beach towels,” said Amy Gaster, chairman of the Tybee Island Tourism Council. “Monday through Friday you usually don’t have any trouble finding a place to park, but the weekends present major challenges.”
And once you find a spot, put your money in the meter.
“Tybee is a pay-to-park community,” Schleicher said. “We have signs everywhere, and people say they didn’t know that had to pay.”
So don’t try to use ignorance as a defense. You have to pay every day 8 a.m.-8 p.m., even on weekends.
There are new change machines for the meters, and the pay-and-display stands take credit and debit cards. City staffers are also encouraged to carry around change as well as merchants. No one wants to ruin your fun, said Gaster, but they do want you to follow the rules.
Parking alternatives ditched
One may wonder why Tybee hasn’t erected a parking structure, put a trolley system in place or charged a toll for entrance onto the island. All those ideas have been bandied about year after year, but none has made it past the idea stage.
Tolls: U.S. 80 isn’t wide enough to accommodate the backed-up traffic a toll road would create. Even speed passes similar to those in Florida wouldn’t make much difference. Studies show that about 75 percent of Tybee visitors are new to the island. So they’d still have to stop and pay.
And the price would have to pay for staffing the booths, building the road and cover the parking revenue for the city. So you could end up paying as much as $30 to access the beach.
Buelterman said he’d hate to make Tybee cost prohibitive.
And besides, a price that high would create problems if people still couldn’t find a place to park. So a toll road would probably need to come with guaranteed parking.
Parking deck: An 800-space structure has been estimated to cost about $13 million. Critics have urged the city to take out a bond and pay for the garage over time.
It’s not that easy, Buelterman said.
“We’d get use out it about a third of the year, and that’s being generous. The rest of the time it would sit empty.”
Besides, at current prices, acquiring the land would be costly as well.
Beach shuttle issues
Several private companies have tried unsuccessfully to run a beach shuttle.
“Just about everybody lost their shirts,” said Councilwoman Wanda Doyle. “The only way to make it work would take some sort of government subsidy.”
Ideas have included bringing Chatham Area Transit as far as Spanish Hammock and providing a local shuttle to loop the island.
Gaster said she believes more stakeholders need to be at the table.
“The problem isn’t just a Tybee one. People come from all over the metro area and beyond, and there’s only so much this small municipality can do.”
Buelterman agreed that some form of regional coalition may be the solution.
“If we only had to accommodate the 4,000 people who live on the island and the guests who stay at the hotels and rental homes, parking would be no problem,” Buelterman said. “But any given weekend day during the summer brings in as many as 10,000 extra people, and we do our best to take care of them.”
Bathrooms get an OK
Perhaps the best news is that all existing public bathrooms are up and running and in good shape.
The potties on the pier were fixed late last year, and several recent surprise inspections have shown clean facilities that need a few minor repairs.
“The inspectors found some rusty fixtures and a few small things that need to be fixed, but the pier is ready for the summer,” said County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis.
The county maintains the pier, and complaints last year led Liakakis to step up enforcement.
Bathrooms at the Marine Science Cwenter have been remodeled, and portable toilets at the South End are up and running.
Long range plans call for permanent fixtures, but conforming to FEMA and Americans with Disabilities Act standards will be costly.
“We’ve applied for variances, so we’ll see what happens,” Buelterman said.
In the meantime, he wants visitors and residents alike to focus on the positives.
“We’ve rehabbed the business district, planted palm trees, widened sidewalks and make paths for bikes,” he said. “We just want everyone to enjoy the summer “