Adding more speed bumps on DeFuniak St. in Grayton Beach will be a topic of discussion at the June 12 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners at 4 p.m. at the Courthouse Annex.
A very frustrated group of residents, including Linda Eyer and Shirley Sahlie.
“When The Red Bar is really jiving — and it will be all summer and spring break — it’s a nightmare down here,” said lifetime visitor and former resident Linda Eyer.
County officials acknowledge there is a problem, but they also see the bright side.
“With the shops plus beach access … there is a lot of traffic that goes through Grayton; there really is nothing that can be done to stop that. And we like people coming here,” said Jason Catalano, aide to Commissioner Cecilia Jones.
But, he added, “I don’t think that there is anyone that would disagree that there is a parking issue.”
For decades, Eyer and Sahlie have watched Grayton grow from a sparsely inhabited gulf-side town to a destination on every 30A tourist’s agenda.
But the come-uppance of Grayton must not have been in the original inhabitants’ plans, as they missed the foresight to plan for such an influx of people and cars. And this is leading to one major problem: parking.
“They park everywhere,” added Sahlie, who lives off DeFuniak Street just a few doors down from the beach access and the handful of restaurants and shops off downtown Grayton’s Hotz Avenue.
The sisters remembers when that street held only The Grayton Hotel and the building that now houses The Red Bar, which was at the time only a store, a few benches, and a dance floor.
“It was idyllic,” said Eyer, who remembers when DeFuniak Street backed up to Grayton State Park.
But now that the neighborhood traffic includes thousands of tourists during the season, and with the fewer than 25 parking spots quickly filled, the droves of people coming to enjoy The Red Bar, Shorty’s, Gypsea or The Zoo Gallery are left wondering where to park.
So these intrepid visitors find spots in front of homes and along both sides of Grayton’s streets.
“When anything happens down here, people park in the street because there’s no place to go,” said Eyer.
With her home’s prime location, Sahlie has been plagued with this parking problem personally. Though she used to use soap on car windows as a means to reprimand those who ignored her no parking signs, Sahlie has had to get a bit more direct. Now, along with the signs along her fence, Sahlie has concrete pots and a chain across her driveway to impede drivers from parking alongside her home.
“You get to that point, you just don’t have patience with it anymore,” said Eyer, whose solution to her annoyance was to move 50 miles north from Grayton Beach to escape the crowds.
But the problem isn’t just the inconvenience to residents, as the crowded streets pose a more dangerous problem, one which came into focus during July fourth weekend in 2009.
A fire truck coming to respond to a call in Grayton Beach was unable to get to the scene of the incident because the streets were so crowded.
Later it was confirmed the “fire” was just smoke from a grill.
“We’re lucky that it wasn’t a big emergency, but it brought light to the situation. We started looking at what options there could be,” said Catalano.
Whether the conversation is about changing the flow of traffic on Hotz Street or trying to establish a public transportation system, those at Commissioner Cecilia Jones’ office are looking into the issue.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, but it’s definitely something we’ve identified. We will work with business owners and residents to do what we can,” said Catalano.
The sisters agree there is a solution, perhaps in the form of northern satellite parking lots, from which patrons could be shuttled in, relieving the congestion on DeFuniak and other Grayton streets.
But what they really want is a balance.
“It’s not that we don’t want everyone to have good business,” said Eyer. “It’s just that everyone pays the price.”