Beach Businesses Concerned Over Traffic and Parking This Tourist Season

Posted on February 8, 2022 by Romi White

During warmer months, afternoon traffic leaving Santa Rosa Island backs up for miles along Navarre Beach Causeway and Gulf Boulevard. Beach business owners say weekly events hosted on the island worsen parking and traffic congestion. South Santa Rosa News file photo.

Navarre Beach business owners attended the February 3 Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council meeting to express concerns over the impending return of parking and traffic congestion, starting next month when Spring Breakers descend on the beach and a new weekly concert series kicks off.

Although Santa Rosa County last year announced plans to have a traffic signal installed ahead of season to alleviate congestion on Gulf Boulevard, that project is delayed due to supply issues.

District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech during the meeting reported that despite the contractor ordering mast arms for the signal as soon as the contract was signed, they’re still awaiting delivery. Piech says the signal will be installed as soon as those arrive.

“We have a very, very serious parking issue,” said Tamara Fountain, who co-owns Windjammers on the Pier Restaurant & Bar with her husband, Ken. They also oversee operations at Navarre Beach Pier.

Fountain pointed out that many of the island’s residential properties are rented out to guests without having adequate parking to accommodate their vehicles. She suggested a parking study would reveal the “huge inequity” between the number of visitors and available parking, which results in guests parking in public beach accesses and business parking lots.

Weekly events scheduled on the island during season seem to further compound the issues.

“Some of the events we’re having on the beach take parking out of play all day long,” Fountain said, suggesting those events be relocated to the Highway 87 S corridor or other areas where visitor traffic is needed. “We ask a lot of our neighbors with tourism, and we need to make sure local citizens can get out the beach too.”

Piech said the TDC will take the traffic and parking problems into consideration when making future funding and scheduling recommendations to the county. In the meantime, he says organizations hosting events on the island will be responsible to pay law enforcement to help mitigate parking and traffic.

Broussard’s of Navarre Beach Co-owner Carl Broussard and Manager Michelle Dickson also attended the meeting. In addition to concerns over not having the traffic signal installed, they face issues with flooding of parking lots during heavy rains.

Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Director Julie White said a landscaping project, which will include berms to redirect storm water away from parking areas, will be completed by October and should help with the flooding.