Gulf of Mexico
Siesta Key, Flickr

Paid parking at Anna Maria beaches might become the county’s newest source of revenue

MANATEE -- As government officials began the annual budget process, the wish list for improvements across Manatee County ballooned quickly, prompting an inquiry into an untapped source of revenue — paid beach parking.

“We’ve got to start looking at user fees for a lot of these facilities we’re giving away for free right now. You certainly see Sarasota and Pinellas County going that way. You pay for parking if you want to go there,” Commissioner Stephen Jonsson said during a recent budget discussion. “We’re starting to see the impact of what it costs us to maintain those boat ramps and things like that.”

Tourism and Anna Maria Island beaches are the No. 1 economic driver in Manatee County, and they’ve also recently been the subject of tens of millions of dollars in improvements. Construction begins later this year on a revamped parking lot at Coquina Beach, the Kingfish Boat Ramp is set to be totally rebuilt and the county is working on huge beach erosion mitigationprojects.

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