The National Park Service wants to eliminate roadside parking at Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Perdido Key Area, also known as Johnson Beach.
Under new plans being proposed by park service officials, hundreds of parking spaces would be added in off-road parking lots, similar to those at the Seashore’s Fort Pickens and Opal Beach areas. Between one and seven new parking lots of varying sizes could be added, depending on which of three project alternatives is selected. New handicap-accessible dune crossovers would be added to connect parking lots to the beach.
Officials says that the proposed changes would improve habitat and reduce ecosystem impacts, noting that other Gulf Islands areas were converted from roadside parking to off-road parking lots in the 1990s.
Each of the alternatives calls for the Johnson Beach access road to be repaved and for the last half-mile of the road — where roadside parking is already prohibited — to be converted to a “multiuse bike and pedestrian path.” Speed tables and crosswalks would also be installed along the road, and a second traffic lane would be added at the park entrance.
“These changes would allow a wide range of uses from beach goers, pedestrians and bicyclists, to drivers, and would restore significant sections of beach habitat that are essential for shorebird nesting and the critically endangered Perdido Key beach mouse,” officials said in a news release.
The National Park Service will hold an informational “open house” meeting next week to discuss the changes. That meeting is set for Tuesday, June 28, between 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Perdido Key Community Center, located at 15500 Perdido Key Drive.
The public can also make comments on the proposal via the Park Services’ Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website. Comments submitted online or by mail are due by July 21.