Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Tom Bell email@example.com
SCARBOROUGH - It's not really summer in Higgins Beach unless residents and visitors get into a fight over parking. This summer, the fight is over 11 spaces.
Parking on Bayview Avenue at Higgins Beach in Scarborough is allowed for free for one hour in designated spaces. Some residents want the town to require people to buy beach passes to park there.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
Alice Gormley, 19, left, and Cara Yost, 19, of Freeport, say the won’t come to Higgins Beach if they have to pay a $65 annual parking pass. “It’s ridiculous,” Gormley said. “I’m a college student and I’m kind of broke, and I won’t be able to afford it.”
Tom Bell/Staff Writer
Parking has always been a volatile issue in this densely settled seaside village. The public has access to the beach, but the narrow streets leave little room for parked cars.
Two years ago, the town bought a small private parking lot and expanded it to accommodate 82 vehicles. At the same time, the town banned on-street parking except in 11 spaces on Bayview Avenue, where parking is limited to one hour.
The idea is to give the public easy access to the beach for a short time, so people can do things like walk dogs, said Kurt Carter, who lives across Bayview Avenue from the parking spaces.
Anyone who wants to stay at the beach for more than an hour can pay $10 to park at the town-owned lot, two blocks inland, or park there for free if they have a beach pass.
But in the time the 11 free spaces have been on Bayview Avenue, they have made the area more congested than it used to be, Carter said, and he has seen young people drinking and throwing beer cans on the street.
Other homeowners say that surfers use their cars as locker rooms to change into wetsuits.
"The street is like a party scene," said Bill Donovan, whose home is next to the parking spaces.
Donovan, who chairs the Higgins Beach Association Civic Committee, is asking the Town Council to bring order to Bayview Avenue.
The best way to do that, he says, is to require people to buy beach passes from the town to park there. The passes, which allow people to park at town-owned beach lots for no charge, cost $35 per year for residents and $65 for nonresidents.
Requiring passes on Bayview Avenue would make parking a privilege, he said. If anyone misbehaved, the town could pull their pass.
Donovan presented the proposal last week to the Town Council's Ordinance Committee.
Naturally, people who park in the spaces aren't happy about the proposal.
Several said Friday that they wouldn't come to Higgins Beach anymore if they needed a pass.
"It's ridiculous," said Cara Yost, 19, of Freeport. "As a college student, I'm kind of broke, and I won't be able to afford it."
Visitors aren't the only people who oppose the plan. Some homeowners say that the problem is being exaggerated, and that the real agenda is to restrict access to the beach.
"They want to get rid of the people from away, and that's wrong," said Iver Carlsen, a retired school principal who's a dedicated surfer. "That doesn't represent the community."
Donovan's proposal would have the effect of excluding people, said Maureen Burns, who lives next to Donovan, on Morning Street.
"People in Greater Scarborough and surrounding towns should be able to have a free parking space and enjoy the beach as we do," she said. "It seems like a little thing to do for a lot of people."
The Ordinance Committee is scheduled to take up the issue on July 31.
The committee will decide whether the proposal has enough support to go to the Town Council, which could take it up on Aug. 15.
Town Councilor Carol Rancourt, who chairs the Ordinance Committee, said the neighborhood association will have to convince her that there's a real problem before she agrees to support the proposal.
She said she's reluctant to support it because of the additional costs for residents to buy beach passes.
Issues related to beach access and parking are always a "big deal" in Scarborough, she said.
"On the other hand, we are lucky to have these problems," she said. "We have these beaches to enjoy."
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: