Savannah proposing paid parking at Forsyth Park

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The City of Savannah is considering charging for parking in three lots at Forsyth Park.

The city would charge $1 per hour to park in the Drayton Street Café lot, the Park Avenue Tennis Court lot and angled spaces along Park Avenue.

"We've been monitoring those parking lots for a long time, and we've noticed that some cars park there for days and days and don't move," said Susan Broker, director of special events, film and tourism for Savannah.

The city hopes the $1 fee promotes turnover of spaces and generates revenue to provide upgrades and maintenance for the park.

"Our plan, first and foremost, is to build bathrooms on the south end of the park," Broker said. "I think everybody would agree that's such a heavily utilized location and having bathrooms that are accessible, with security, that are clean and nice would be a great addition to an already fantastic asset for the city."

Broker said the city also needs to do repairs on the band shell, focus more attention on litter removal and maybe hire a park manager to oversee it all.

"A park that size needs some dedicated staff to maintain it, be on the lookout for things and be aware of who is in the park and what's going on," she said.

Those who work and use the park said they do not want to pay for parking, and if they do, they likely won't come as often or at all.

"We wouldn't park here," said Rhonda Candell, who was visiting from Oregon.

Michelle Riley is a personal trainer in Savannah, and she says trains clients in Forsyth Park because of the free parking. She said paying for it could change that.

"That means I wouldn't come to Forsyth to as much, and I would probably just stay more in Daffin and not come to Forsyth to train my clients," she said.

Jerry Kiernan said they city just announced a $10 million budget surplus, and it should use that money to pay for park needs.

"You have extra money, but you're going to impose on me like almost a fine for using the park?" he said.

Broker said the city would make about $240,000 from the parking fee in the first year, and about $20,000 would be used for meter installation. All of the money earned from park parking fees would be dedicated funds for Forsyth Park, she said, and she wouldn't have to fight for a budget for its upkeep each year.

"These are dedicated annual funds," she said. "So I'm not going to have to fight with another city department in two years for the revenue generated from this parking. That would go directly into a fund just for Forsyth Park, and so that to me is the benefit."

Still, Sentient Bean Manager Henry Rocha says it would make his employees' lives harder.

"I don't want to pay for parking," Rocha said. "I don't want any of my coworkers to have to pay for parking or have to run out constantly every hour to pay for parking and I think it's gonna add up and it's gonna make our job here a lot harder."

Broker said she gets it, but also knows the city needs a sustainable way to keep up with park upkeep.

"I want to park for free," Broker said. "My son plays ultimate frisbee there, and he wants to park for free. I get it, but we do have to balance that with the needs of the park itself."

The city's hosting a meeting at the Civic Center on April 24 from 4-7 p.m. where residents can voice their opinions. If you can't attend the meeting, the City of Savannah also has a section on the city's website for the public to provide feedback.

Broker said the city is also planning ot host a forum on a Saturday morning in the Forsyth Park to try to gather opinions from as many people as possible.

"We know generally what folks are going to say, but I think it would be, certainly, disingenuous of us to assume what the community has to say and move forward without getting this very important feedback," Broker said.

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