SOUTH PORTLAND — Visitors to Willard Beach have another reason to walk, bike or commute to the popular spot after the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to remove parking from part of Beach Street.
About five parking spots were eliminated in a decision meant to approve emergency and large-vehicle access to lower Beach Street. The stretch of road starts at Myrtle Avenue and includes a 90-degree blind turn that dead-ends at the beach.
Currently, no parking is allowed on the north side of the street, which borders Southern Maine Community College. Wednesday’s decision eliminates all parking, and goes into effect immediately.
The loss of parking on Beach Street could put more pressure on the city’s beach parking lot on nearby Willard Street. That lot holds about 70 cars.
“I got a call from one of the residents down there who said that when people park in the summer, his oil delivery truck can’t get there, his trash pickup can’t get there,” Councilor Tom Coward, who represents the Willard neighborhood, said in an interview Wednesday.
That resident was Dan LaBrie, who lives at 6 Beach St., which abuts the beach. Attempts to reach LaBrie were unsuccessful.
Police Lt. Frank Clark said he has talked with LaBrie and other neighborhood residents, and they all had the same concerns.
“I went down there and they had set some vehicles up to be consistent with what it would be like on a general, busier day,” Clark said. “There was no way that a vehicle such as a firetruck would have been able to get around that 90-degree corner.”
But Jean and Bill Flahive, who live on the corner of Beach Street and Myrtle Avenue, said they rarely see emergency vehicles or large vehicles on their street, and seemed perplexed by the concerns of their neighbors.
“Generally, I’m against making it more difficult for people to access the beach,” Bill Flahive said.
Coward said he regrets losing the parking spots on Beach Street, but that safety must be the priority. Whether emergency vehicles are a common sight or not, they still need to be able to get to the beach.
Clark, of the Police Department, agreed.
“If we were trying to access that end of the beach, to get someone out of the beach or out of the water with a fire or rescue vehicle, we could not do so,” he said.
The dead end on Beach Street in South Portland, where until Wednesday, parking was allowed on the right for about five vehicles.