Traffic and parking changes coming to St. Joe
With summer approaching, city leaders in St. Joe are preparing to test some new ideas so residents and visitors can coexist without a problem.
“Having lived here all my life, really it seems the last few years – and the last two years in particular – we’ve been seeing even more traffic,” said John Hodgson, the St. Joe city manager.
You could find city workers planting flowers and cutting the grass throughout St. Joe on Wednesday, as preparations for summer continue.
“The feedback that we’ve received – the predominant feeling is thank goodness we’re trying something,” said Hodgson.
That feedback is from those who call St. Joe home year-round.
Hodgson – a lifelong St. Joe resident himself – said those who live in the city full time are largely on board with plans he and public safety director Brian Uridge have come up with to control the ever-growing summer chaos in St. Joe.
“Parking, traffic congestion, and quality of life issues,” said Uridge, when asked what residents’ main complaints are about the summer season.
Uridge and his team held a series of public meetings throughout the last few months to hear from residents.
Now come the changes.
The first impacts how you and your family will physically get to Silver Beach this summer.
Hodgson and Uridge want you to turn off of Main Street and onto Port Street if you’re heading to the beach.
You then take a quick right onto State Street, and follow the road down as it winds and turns into Water Street and then Vine Street.
Vine Street eventually brings you to Silver Beach Pizza and Broad Street, which leads you straight to the Silver Beach parking lot and other downtown amenities.
“The more people we can get doing it right the first time, the better it will be,” said Hodgson.
The goal is to have less visitors driving through nearby residential areas to get to the beach.
Lake Street – where the entrance to Silver Beach is – will become a one-way road between Broad Street and Elm Street.
This will allow for a drop-off and pick-up zone at the beach – something many residents asked for, according to Hodgson and Uridge.
Because of that one-way, nearby Park Street will no longer provide a direct route to the Silver Beach parking lot – which is why using the route described above will be best.
Up the road at Lions Beach, the fork in the road near the entrance will become a one-way loop.
Hodgson said this will create room for 55+ new parking spots on the upper portion of the loop.
“We’d rather have people parking inside of the park, out of the neighborhoods, rather than out on our neighborhood streets,” he said.
That new parking area will be free Mondays through Thursdays, except on holidays. You’ll have to pay to park there Fridays through Sundays.
Uridge said you’ll also see more of his officers on foot interacting with the community.
He hopes they can act as ambassadors for both residents and visitors.
“I would give the same level of advice to both visitors and residents,” said Uridge. “We need to respect everyone’s right to have fun within reason.”
You can also expect to see some of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department’s mounted deputies – on horseback – along Silver Beach for three weekends throughout the summer.
Uridge said the department offered the mounted units when they’re available, and he hopes the horses will be great for families to interact with and will help maintain calm on the beaches.
For St. Joe residents, Uridge said more public meetings will be held throughout the summer to determine if the changes are actually working.