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Free park parking: The Cape’s third rail

June 19, 2014
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Sometimes, with even the best planning, we miss the obvious.

And miss the obvious is what happened when the city of Cape Coral revamped the parking at the Yacht Club Community Park to coincide with the opening of the new restaurant there.

While the trial plan to double the public parking spaces from 38 to about 80 near the Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill by using valet parking made good sense from a numbers standpoint, it failed to take into account a key user demographic of the park itself. That's older, longtime residents who visit the pool for arthritis exercise sessions; the Tony Rotino Senior Center for classes; and "their" beach for a little sun, fishing or camaraderie.

Sure, finding a prime parking spot was sometimes hard, but it was free and if you timed it right, you could usually get a place by the pier.

Valet parking in those close-by spots - at $3 on weekdays! and $5 on weekends!! - was viewed as not only an unfair cost, but a "taking," a taking of parking that belonged to park users, many of whom are least able to walk from the "overflow" lots should they still want to park for free.

Call it the Cape's third rail: The outcry was immediate.

What was next?

Meters at Four Freedoms?

Also immediate, though, was a response on the part of city officials and the owners and management team at the Boathouse.

Just 18 days into what was to be a six-week experiment with the valet parking plan, it was agreed that the valet service would be redirected to the overflow lot, making the 38 disputed spots again free.

Kudos to the city for its responsiveness to the public.

And kudos as well to the Boathouse for the quick demonstration of its "good neighbor" promise.

While we had no issues with KC's Riverstop - count us among those who for years enjoyed a soda and a dog on those so-called tacky plastic chairs - we welcome the Boathouse and we thank the owners for their continuing investment in the city.

What they have done - and done in an economy still on the mend - is to be commended.

In addition to Ford's Garage on Cape Coral Parkway, Kearns Restaurant Group has made a significant investment - and improvement - at the Cape's oldest park complex. As part of its lease arrangement with the city, Kerns, in fact, completely rebuilt the old concession-style facility. Using an island-style, tiki hut concept, the group added 2,200 feet of decking with seating for 200 as well as a full menu with more than 40 offerings for lunch and dinner and a selection of beers and cocktails.

Meanwhile, the city's lease revenue is expected to increase accordingly due to its awarding the competitive requests-for-proposal to the Boathouse.

Change is not always a bad thing.

Just ask the residents who have filled the new venue since its opening to enjoy dinner, a drink and a sunset.

Parking brouhaha or not.

- Breeze editorial



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