Mercy me, I just love “free” things. My wife and I decided to get the heck out of Dodge this weekend and cram in one last long weekend at the beach. For those of you unfamiliar with the east coast geography, State College (home of Penn State where I have been nurtured for the last 40 years or so) is about 4.5 hours from one of the best stretches of beach on the eastern seaboard, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Once upon a time, the state of Delaware was the “lower three counties” of Pennsylvania. But, then, that is a history lesson and this lesson is going to try to deal with the delicate art of parking.
Like most tourist destinations, the fine fathers of Rehoboth try to ensure that their community creates a magnetic attraction for those poor inland dwellers, like me, to return to and spend money. They try to keep their streets clean, a strong retail flavor along the main drags of town, ensure that properties are kept in tip top clean and functional condition. Also, to keep the economic engine moving they also develop an atmosphere to bring in tourists outside of the traditional Memorial Day to Labor Day summer vacation time period. They all know that tourists mean money.
On my walk from my hotel three blocks back from the beach (yeah, I am on a fixed income now, no more living it up) there are probably close to 400 parking spaces. They were all filled. So were an equal number of spaces in the next several blocks out. On October 7th, they are all filled. I wondered that perhaps the weather was partially to blame. I mean we are almost 6 weeks past the end of tourist season and 90% or more of the shops are still open and the sidewalks are filled with people willing to part with their hard earned money.
Why are these people all here??
Okay, this is Dogs on the Beach weekend. The first weekend that dogs are allowed to run up and down on the beach. Next weekend is a jazz festival that is equally highly attended and then the week after that is Sea Witch where they tie in the Halloween holiday. Are they the reasons the town is still packed at the end of the first week of October??
No! Absolutely not. All these people came here because after Labor day they pull all the pay by space stations, all the meter heads and parking is FREE. That must be the reason people head to Rehoboth Beach. I had no clue it was free (course my hotel includes the parking fee in my nightly bill) but obviously everyone else here came so they could utilize free parking.
I have heard that the town realizes well over $2,000,000 for parking in the Memorial Day to Labor Day period. I wonder what they are giving up the other 9 months. If people are still coming here in October, I would suspect that they are also here in mid to late April. That is more than twice the time that they charge for parking. My guess, like many other communities, the merchants repeat the mantra that if you have to pay for parking you won’t come here.
Very clever, these people.
Doug Holmes, CAPP