Greg Stanley, email@example.com; 239-263-4738Published 2:01 p.m. ET Feb. 14, 2018 | Updated 5:21 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018
Southwest Florida residents bemoan the lack of beach parking and access points.
Collier County beachgoers soon might be able to get real-time beach parking updates on smartphones and websites.
County commissioners hired T-2 Parking Solutions to provide an automatic counting system to keep track of parking spaces filled at the Vanderbilt Beach garage and in nearby Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.
That system in North Naples should be up and running by the end of April, said Steve Carnell, administrator of public services.
The Vanderbilt Beach parking garage filled up, causing a line of cars waiting to park, just before 1 p.m. on Friday, February 16, 2018. (Photo: Justin Gilliland/Special to the Naples Daily News)
County officials couldn't say which app beachgoers will need to download on their phones, but the new technology will show how many parking spaces are available at Vanderbilt and Delnor-Wiggins and where exactly to find the empty spaces.
"The idea is you can check your phone or the website at 8:30 in the morning and see that, oh, there's a few spaces left if you hurry over," Carnell said.
The app could help reduce the number of drivers who circle the beaches hoping to find a spot.
The real-time information also will help booth operators shuffle in cars more quickly during season, when lots in the state park and at the Vanderbilt garage fill up.
Counting is done by hand now. Once the lots are filled, attendants sometimes can leave the "full" signs up even as a few cars have trickled out. The new technology will make it easier for attendants to let in a vehicle as soon as a spot is free, Carnell said.
It will cost $85,000 to install the systems at the two beaches. The money will come from the county's tourist tax on hotel stays and short-term rentals.
Residents of Collier County and property owners can obtain a free beach parking sticker for their vehicles.
County officials said they hope to expand the system to other county beaches eventually, as commissioners and parks managers continue to look for ways to make the region's most important natural amenity and tourism attraction more accessible to a growing population.
For example, commissioners have ordered a cost and feasibility study of building a three-story parking garage at Clam Pass Park just north of Naples.
The county this season started a free trolley that runs between Vanderbilt and Delnor-Wiggins beaches.