The early bird gets the worm. Only this year, in regards to parking along the seawall before Mardi Gras, the early birds will have to pay a good bit more for stretching the privilege and breaking the rules about how early is too early.
The Galveston City Council last week unanimously passed an ordinance hiking the usual overnight parking fine from $50 to $250 per night during the Monday to Thursday leading up to Mardi Gras’ first weekend.
The background is that the city typically forbids overnight parking along the seawall. Getting caught at that typically draws a $50 fine. The city typically allows overnight parking beginning the first Friday of Mardi Gras so people can grab a spot and set up for the weekend parades.
Apparently, a lot of people thought paying the $50 fine was worth it to stake out their overnight parking spots very early in the week, which made it hard for crews to clean up and empty trash cans along the seawall.
While the increased fine raises the ire of some, the city says doing so was necessary to discourage visitors from parking sooner and longer than the rules allow.
The city, for its part, has been transparent about the motivation for raising the fines during the week before Mardi Gras.
“In the past, a week before this, we would have a lot of equipment, cars, barbecue pits parked at that location,” said David Smith, executive director of fleet, mass transit, and special events. And it is the congestion that concerns city officials. Additionally, City Manager Brian Maxwell points to the volume of overnight parking as an impediment to maintenance and cleaning services to the area.
And as much as this move by the city may upset some, the limited scope of the increased fine for the privilege of overnight parking is reasonable considering the objective.
Locals may be impacted to a certain extent, but the reality is the strings of motorhomes and extended spaces taken up are occupied by visitors. The added volume spikes the amount of support required to properly keep up basic services along the seawall.
Trash and debris accumulating along the roadway and area would create an eyesore for our community, and as any resident would agree, would prevent Galveston from putting its best foot forward for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit during the event.
We understand some of the initial pushback from some vocal opponents. But in the end, we ask they appreciate the added level of responsibility to the community as one of the most traveled roadways in the entire county turns into a de facto camping ground.
Everyone loves a party — but no one likes to stay behind and clean it up. The city’s effort to better manage the situation is reasonable.
• Leonard Woolsey