OCEAN CITY – Due to the decrease in available parking in the downtown area and the increase in equipment that lifeguards bring with them to the beach each day, the Recreation and Parks Commission has granted lifeguards free access to the municipal lots in the downtown area south of 5th Street.
Captain Butch Arbin came before the Recreation and Parks Commission Tuesday to relay the current employee parking problems and to propose a three-pronged solution.
“More and more employees are driving to their post each day than in past seasons. Finding available parking has become far more difficult.” Arbin said in a packet to the commission.
According to Arbin, the decrease in available parking along with the increase in meter parking has made it difficult for guards to find spots in the morning.
“Even if they wanted to pay at the meters, they would have to re-feed the meters throughout the day,” Arbin said, explaining that the meters don’t cover the 7.5-hour shift of the guards.
In the uptown area, guards are facing similar parking problems. Arbin explained that in the uptown condo section, many residents park on the streets, leaving their reserved lots open for guests. The result is less available parking on the streets for the lifeguards.
Lifeguards bring a mass of necessities with them each morning, including an umbrella, plenty of water, a buoy, sweat shirts and sweat pants in case it gets chilly on the stand, rain gear, plenty of sunscreen, a change of clothes and more. Carrying all of that equipment onto the bus is nearly impossible. Arbin explained that full buses will occasionally pass a guard that is loaded up with bulky equipment. Parking on the bayside and walking across Coastal Highway is no easy feat either.
Arbin explained that he didn’t want guards placing notes in their car windows for police to see. Although some of the police are willing to work with the guards and not ticket them, Arbin would rather have official parking.
“That’s not official and I can’t allow that,” he said.
Arbin proposed that from the Inlet to 5th Street spaces be reserved in city lots, that north of 5th Street, street parking being allowed with the use of a permit, and that from 33rd Street north, a spot on each block be designated for Beach Patrol parking.
“I don’t want designated spots,” Council President Joseph Mitrecic said of the third request.
Arbin explained that in areas such as Rehoboth Beach, designated parking spots exist for the lifeguards.
The commission was unwilling to grant designated street parking, but did agree to allow parking in the municipal lots south of 5th Street.
“Anything you can do to help the guards,” Arbin said.
The commission agreed to allow guards with permits in their windows to park in the municipal lots during work hours. The available area includes the lots at Worcester Street, Dorchester Street, North Division Street and 4th Street. Arbin explained that crews one and two as well as the surf beach facilitators would be able to take advantage of the parking, estimating that 10 guards per day would use the available parking.
With the approval of the permits, Arbin later explained that he would be making permits, specific to the guard’s car, that will hang in the car windows, allowing them access to the lots soon.
Although the parking situation has only been solved in the area south of 5th Street, Arbin was more than pleased with the committee’s approval, explaining that it was a small but valuable step towards solving the parking problem.