The following letter was sent to Lee County Commissioner John Manning by Boca Grande resident Ed Cruz, in response to the county’s parking proposal on Gilchrist Avenue. For that complete proposal story, see the October 15 edition of the Gasparilla Gazette. This is reprinted here with Mr. Cruz’s permission.
Dear Commissioner Manning,
I am writing to express my thanks to you and your professional staff for the effort you all have put into developing the parking plan for Gilchrist Avenue. We all realize this has been a contentious issue in our community with the question being to what extent, if any, the historic median could or should be used to accommodate the parking requirements of Boca Grande. Also, for the sake of transparency, I am copying community participants who have expressed opinions, pro and con, on this issue.
In my view, your plan recognizes the median as a public space to be preserved while providing for on-street parallel parking that allows for a safe and efficient parking design, creating 139 car parking spaces in the four block area, by my count more than enough spaces for the needs of the community. With modest golf car usage, the number of vehicle spaces goes up significantly beyond the 139 spaces quoted in your report.
Also, over the last few years, being a Gilchrist Avenue resident, I have personally witnessed the number of cars parked on Gilchrist at peak usage and have never counted more than 100 cars at any one time for an event, and that is mostly without the utilization of the spaces from nearby business lots committed to the Methodist Church as part of the church's application to enlarge its facility.
Adding to that, the fact that the public parking lot on the north end of Gilchrist off 5th Avenue is rarely used, I am confident that utilizing these additional parking venues would decrease the demand on Gilchrist parking even more.
Without directly stating it, the DOT clearly cannot accept the Inn's plan, in my opinion. It relies on an unjustified appropriation of public land for private use and it is unsafe in design.
As to Ms. Nichols letter on behalf of the GICIA, I agree that "the issue of creating a safer more attractive Gilchrist median" has been the topic in our community. I also agree that plans have been put forward but no plan that I am aware of, aside from the Inn's plan, has shown angle parking or nose-in parking for Gilchrist Avenue. All plans discussed, until the Inn plan, called for parallel parking as the DOT is now proposing.
I do not agree with the characterization of events leading to the GICIA's position on the parking issue. The plan they are proposing is identical to one that had been presented to me months earlier and, now as then, its stated goal being MAXIMUM POSSIBLE PARKING ON GILCHRIST. No further discussion was had once the Inn plan was introduced.
Unfortunately, the reference to the DOT parking plan as the "proposed staff plan" is an obvious effort to downplay its significance and ignores the fact the it is the product of qualified professional transportation engineers who obviously have taken the time to study the issues on Gilchrist and the community's needs for parking, and have signed their names to the design. As a civil engineer myself, I know and appreciate the fact that they have come to their conclusions objectively, absent personal interest, and they do not state their professional opinions lightly.
I will not go into all the other exceptions I have with the Inn plan other than to say it is based on appropriating a historic swath of public land and tampering with a majestic roadway that goes back to the time of the founding members of Boca Grande including Governor Gilchrist, Ms. Crowninshield, and right up to Mr. Bayard Sharpe.
To permanently destroy the median and completely eradicate its landscape, a landscape designed by the famous architect of the time Carl Rust Parker, and attempt to replace it with an unsightly and totally unsafe campground for cars, trucks, and buses for its entire length from 5th Street to Gulf Avenue is unconscionable.
The Inn and the churches do not own Gilchrist Avenue nor do they own the median; they have no right to demand the use of it as a parking lot. The GICIA has no right to it either. Their position on this issue runs counter to their Mission Statement for Gasparilla Island and is diametrically opposed to the core values they espouse.
Having said all this, if their plan were implemented, there would be a possible gain of eight parking spaces per block as your studies indicate, very inferior parking spaces that as designed could not accommodate vehicles longer than 18 feet over the four blocks; it is difficult to imagine what the GICIA is thinking.
The GICIA does own the bike path. For "maximum parking" would they ever consider using that asset as a continuation of what they plan for the Gilchrist median? The bike path is convenient to town and it would lend itself to a similar design. I don't think they ever would and I personally hope they don't.
Let’s find room for those 32 spaces somewhere else in town. The GICIA does own the old railroad right-of-way which includes much more than the conversion of the track to a bike path. They own property on Railroad across form the Inn and just north of the commercial area that would easily accommodate dimensions parking deficit. Also there is GICIA property south of the Clinic.
We can do it; we can achieve the parking objectives and preserve and restore Gilchrist Avenue to its former glory. All of this tension and backbiting must stop. Instead, let's embark on a more positive mission, a fund raising campaign to build those 32 spaces and return our Avenue to the grandeur it once enjoyed.
That's more the GICIA's style, and that of our community!
Respectfully,Edward Cruz, PEBoca Grande
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