In just a few weeks, you will no longer have to pay to park at the HarborWalk Village. For a little while at least.
In an email to The Log, HarborWalk Chief Operating Officer Paul van Leeuwen said they will stop charging for parking after Labor Day, except on peak weekends.
Those weekends include the Seafood Festival, Blues, Brews & BBQ, and New Years Eve.
According to van Leeuwen, the gatehouses will remain on the property to “welcome our guests and appropriately distribute arriving vehicles.”
HarborWalk employees will also be allowed to park onsite again, except on those peak weekends. Then they will park in the city parking lots and take a free shuttle to the village as they have done since the $10 fee started in June.
“We are also planning several improvements to the parking lots including new gatehouses, gate arms, and signage to enhance the overall experience,” Van Leeuwen said in the email.
The decision to charge for parking at the HarborWalk was met with mixed reviews from the public. Some saw the benefit in paying to park, while others lamented the $10 fee.
"$10 to park at the HarborWalk is more than reasonable and it would be a good thing if more places charged that rather than towing people," said Tyler Buchanan on Facebook.
"I WILL NOT go to HarborWalk as long as they continue to enforce that ridiculous parking fee," Brooke 'Benton' Budney said.
Van Leeuwen said one of the main reasons they started to charge was to ensure there was enough parking for visitors and guests of the Emerald Grande and HarborWalk village. The funds generated from the fees are going towards parking improvements and to pay for the employee parking and shuttle.
Some people claimed the traffic on U.S. Highway 98 was worse this year as a result of the parking fee since HarborWalk does not have a turn lane into their lot. But van Leeuwen said the traffic backups were due to an increase to the amount of people in the area and that they had the Sheriff's Office on the property to observe how they operate.
Other restaurants such as Brotulas began charging for parking during the summer season as well.
According to Jessica Wright, a manager at Brotulas, they will also be discontinuing their parking fees after Labor Day but plan to charge again next summer.