By KENNY WALTER
LONG BRANCH — A trip through Long Branch on a weekend beach day has led to many being stuck in gridlock searching for parking.
During an Aug. 9 Council Workshop meeting, the council discussed a growing problem where the demand for beach parking has outnumbered the city supply and led to increased traffic issues.
“We have a huge parking problem and we really need to take a look in October and November and really take a look at the problem,” Councilwoman Kate Billings said.
While parking has been an issue in recent years, Beach Manager Dan George said it has become a bigger issue this year, particularly on Sundays when beach parking lots have often filled up early in the day.
“At this point, people are just circling and just looking and that’s where the backup [comes from],” George said. “We just try to get people on the beach instead of continuing to head south.
“They are going to drive through Elberon and they are going to end up in Asbury. We wanted to make sure that we kept them and they had somewhere to park.”
In response to the parking problems in recent weeks, the city has utilized the 82 spaces at the Long Branch Senior Center on Second Avenue as overflow parking.
Stan Dzuiba, coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management, said the lot is only used when all the other allocated beach parking lots are filled to capacity.
However, because the council has not yet amended ordinances, the city is unable to charge for parking at the Senior Center lot.
“It’s not just random free parking, it’s once the lots are full then we open up the senior lot,” Dzuiba said. “On the days that are bad weather days or the days that aren’t busy, we never open that.”
City attorney James Aaron said there is not enough time left in the summer season for the council to put an ordinance in place to charge at the Senior Center lot.
“We can have an ordinance ready for introduction in two weeks, but it will take you beyond Labor Day,” he said. “But you will have these ordinances in motion and in place for the fall.”
However, Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. suggested the city wait until the spring to decide on parking because the lot may need to be used as employee parking.
“I think we should introduce the ordinance next spring because we’ll have a better idea next spring where Pier Village is going to be in terms of their construction, where we are going to be with other lots,” Woolley said.