Collier to Consider Parking Garage at Clam Pass Park to Improve Beach Access

This has become a very controversial issue since I posted this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.  Of course, the people against it don’t want changes made because the beach will become more crowded if more people have access to it.  In Southwest Florida we are selling sunshine and beaches and our visitors should be able to get access as easily as possible to our #1 attraction.  I believe the easier we make it to park and travel in Naples the more visitors we can expect.

Courtesy of Naples Daily News February 2018


Collier County will take a look at what it would take to build a parking garage at Clam Pass Park as commissioners consider options for improving beach access throughout the county.

Commissioners are set to decide Tuesday whether they want to complete a formal study of building what could be a three-story parking garage, similar in size to the structure at Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples.

In what could be a more far-fetched plan, the county also might try to buy Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park or see whether the state would be willing to enter into a management agreement to let the county operate the park’s entrance.

Southwest Florida residents bemoan the lack of beach parking and access points. June Fletcher/Naples Daily News

With the population continuing to grow and traffic backing up at some of the county’s more popular beaches, commissioners asked county parks and public services officials to look for ways to improve access.

A three-story garage at Clam Pass Park could add more than 300 spaces in the popular park’s current lot at the end of Seagate Drive, said Steve Carnell, administrator of the public services department.

“The thought is, there is a lot of demand there and traffic going in and out of that park,” Carnell said.

Clam Pass Park gets more than 157,000 visitors a year and currently has 171 parking spaces. Beachgoers hop on a shuttle or walk down a milelong boardwalk from the parking lot to the beach.

Most beachgoers stay close to the end of the boardwalk, concentrating the crowd on the north end of the beach.

If the county extends the boardwalk to the south, with an exit closer to Doctors Pass, it could accommodate more people at the beach, Carnell said.

“If we put a little extension there, it could guide people down the beach and spread people out and really get more utilization,” he said. “It’s one of the few areas we have where there is available beach to use.”

It’s unclear how much support from the commission and the public there will be to build a parking garage or extend the Clam Pass Park boardwalk.

Past proposals have failed after outcry from neighbors.

Part of the problem is previous County Commissions allowed large sections of the beach to lose public access, said Commissioner Penny Taylor.

“The county really through the years sold out its beach access from underneath the people’s feet,” Taylor said. “So now my concern as we grow, we need to invest in assuring our residents in our county they will have beach access.”

Taylor said there are concerns about building a parking garage.

“People are frightened about it and concerned that parking garages only grow larger,” she said. “This has been talked about before and I guess it’s going to have to get an airing again.”

 The county also might be suffering from a form of seller’s remorse. The county sold the North Naples land that became Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park to the state in the 1970s.

Almost every decade since, the state and the county have butted heads over parking and traffic flow issues into and out of the park.

In 2008, the county tried to get the state to build a two-story parking ramp, but the state opted against it.

Over the past two years, the county has been trying to get the state to expand the park entrance to alleviate jams on Gulf Shore Boulevard and Bluebill Avenue. The county has set aside money to pay for a new lane into the park.

“The state hasn’t said no to it, but there have been some changes in leadership that have delayed things,” Carnell said.

It might be time to see whether the state is willing to sell the park back to Collier County, or work out a leasing agreement similar to one for Barefoot Beach that allows the county to manage traffic, Carnell said.

“The state is stretched pretty thin on its parks, and we probably have more capacity and can do a better job of resourcing that beach and maintaining the flow in and out of it,” he said.

Comments are closed.