Council Favors Beach Parking Changes

In an effort to provide relief for public parking availability in town at no cost, Gulfport City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance on first reading during their May 5 meeting that would add 52 daytime spaces in the beach lot along Shore Boulevard.

Currently, in the brick paver area, the resident-only section exists from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Known as the “beach-parking permit,” the decal for this area, with an expiration date, is free to Gulfport residents and has been issued through the Community Development Department, 5330 23rd Avenue S.

At the February 19 meeting, Councilmember Dan Liedtke made the suggestion to remove the resident-only parking signs in the beach lot.

City staff followed through with an ordinance that would remove the signs and eliminate the current “no beach parking” designation in parking spaces located in the adjacent Recreation Center parking lot, 5730 Shore Boulevard S.

Street signs enforced year round that limit parking near the beach to residents only are not be affected. Separate decals for residents living from the west side of Beach Boulevard South to Dupont Street South and from 29th Avenue South to Shore Boulevard South can be obtained from the Gulfport Police Department by providing proof of residency with a copy of a lease or water bill along with a vehicle make, model and tag number.

If councilmembers approve the ordinance on second reading, the parking lot signs will be removed and the beach-parking permit decals for residents will no longer be issued.

According to a memo issued by the city, eliminating beach decals would result in an annual savings of about $300.

“This is a great idea. I think it’s overdue,” said Liedtke. “I know in the last few years we’ve probably put up 400 signs around town related to things you can and can’t do.

“I feel like we should have a ribbon-cutting for taking these signs down.”

Council also discussed that in the future, they will consider limiting the hours that vehicles can be parked in the beach lot to eliminate the issue of people sleeping in their vehicles overnight.

During the council’s comments and information reports segment, Vice Mayor Christine Brown asked about the status of the opening of the new skate park located next to the Recreation Center.

City Manager Jim O’Reilly said that city staff had met with the designers and contractors earlier in the day and that all that remains are some finishing touches.

“The park will open in two to three weeks,” said O’Reilly.

Drowning Prevention with Swimming Lessons

Councilmember Paul Ray reported that he is working on a project that will give Gulfport children the opportunity to learn how to swim to prevent drowning deaths. 

His plan is to create a package of three swimming lessons lasting 45 minutes each over the span of three weeks in a public swimming pool. Ray did not name a location for the proposed lessons.

“We’re going to be able to work with probably 36 kids each Saturday,” he said.

Qualified lifeguards associated with the YMCA will provide instruction at a cost of about $500 each Saturday, he said.

Ray asked if the council would be willing to sponsor one of the weekends.

“I’m interested,” said Mayor Sam Henderson. Other councilmembers agreed.

Moving forward, Ray said he would like to see the program expand to include adults.

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.”

The center also said that for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Statistics provided by the center show that taking part in formal swimming lessons does reduce the risk of drowning. 

“Maybe you could include some rip tide training too,” said Henderson. “Unfortunately, that always gets a few people every year but usually not people who live here.”

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