ANNA MARIA ISLAND, Fla. — There is a slice of paradise in the Tampa Bay area most people know about: Anna Maria Island.
Every year the island draws tens of thousands of visitors to its sandy beaches and cotton candy skies. With that comes copious amounts of vehicles.
Darlene Woods has seen that as a visitor and now as someone who works on the island.
"It sucks out here. It's hard to find someone. You have got to get out here at like 6, 7 in the morning just to find parking during the summer," Woods said.
She is a server on Anna Maria Island and lives off of tips. Tips that aren't coming in if people can't park and dine.
Lynne Horne echos the same.
His restaurant, the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, still sees its fair share of business, but that doesn't mean parking isn't a bear for those who visit.
"I think it's frustration for the people who are trying to find a parking spot," Horne said.
This isn't new news for city leaders along the island.
Three different mayors play a role along the seven mile stretch of the island and then there are Manatee County commissioners.
Commissioner Kevin VanOstenbridge has been pushing for a solution.
At the end of the day he said there needs to be compromise between all parties.
In a statement to ABC Action News he said, "It is going to take compromise on both sides to resolve the issue of equal beach access. The City of Holmes Beach is going to have to return many of the public parking spaces that were taken away during the height of the pandemic. In return Manatee County must make a real commitment to limiting the negative impacts tourism has on the the daily lives of our island residents. I think a parking garage will be part of the solution. I am confident that we will work out a fair deal for all. It may take some time to work things out but the right compromise will be worth the wait."
ABC Action News also reached out to Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth who said she would rather step back from parking discussions in the media, however she did say the city accommodates many cars, more than the other two cities.
"We actually did finally set a limit as to what we felt we could safely accommodate within the ¼ mile distance from the beaches. FDOT is currently working on the timing of traffic lights during peak hours to try to move the traffic both on and off the island as congestion has been a huge concern with public safety. Although Manatee County has not reached out yet with any solutions in providing more parking to the public beach, I understand they have been extremely busy with responding to the red tide events and now our second tropical storm. That plus being in the midst of budget season leaves little time to address. Dialogue between the City and the County continue to improve," Titsworth said.
Anna Maria's Mayor Dan Murphy also commented on the parking situation and said, "At the current time we do not have any plans nor are there any discussions to increase our public parking space inventory of 4,500+ spaces within our city limits. We have, however recently conducted a study using a professional traffic engineer and we are now considering options to re-configure our Pine Avenue Corridor (which extends from Pine to Magnolia and from Gulf Dr. to South Bay). This area is in the heart of our city and our intent is to mitigate congestion and make the corridor safer and friendly for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. The name of this project is 'Reimagining Pine.'"
For people like Woods and Horne they hope a solution is found sooner rather than later so everyone can enjoy the island without the frustration.