Hilton Head soccer parents frustrated with parking at Chaplin Park

dburley@islandpacket.comApril 28, 2014 

Some Hilton Head Island parents say they can't find parking on game days near the soccer fields at Chaplin Community Park.

Several found tickets on their windshields this weekend after illegally parking on side streets during a busy slate of games, they said Monday. Others parked up to a quarter-mile away and were angry no closer spots were available.

"Parking is atrocious," said Jason Hershey, whose 9-year-old daughter plays soccer at the park. "You have to wait for a pocket of people leaving. Otherwise, good luck."

Town officials said there's plenty of parking at the mid-island park -- some just might have to walk farther than others.

"People are trying to get as close to the fields as they can," facilities manager Julian Walls said. "I guarantee you there's parking. I would assume they just don't want to walk from there."

The issue boiled over Saturday after parent Chris Gregory posted a picture on Facebook of a town employee ticketing a car on Shore Crest Lane, a dead-end street across from the fields. Many drivers park on Shore Crest when space is filled along Burkes Beach Road, adjacent to the fields.

His post received more than 160 "likes" and generated a flow of conversation that continued Monday.

Some commenters joined Gregory in denouncing the town for ticketing cars along the road. Despite the no-parking signs, they say there's no choice but to park there.

"Seemed a little strange that the town would take advantage of people by giving them tickets when they know there is an issue," Gregory said Monday.

Other Facebook users defended the tickets, for example, asserting the cars blocked room for emergency vehicles.

"Plain and simple, these cars create a hazard for fire engines needing access to the hydrant there," wrote one Facebook user who works for the Town of Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Division, according to her online profile.

Walls, the town official, said tensions regarding parking at Chaplin flared up during last fall's soccer season.

He received several calls from property owners who said too many drivers were parking along the dead-end streets. Walls told his employees to step up enforcement. Tickets cost about $20, according to parents who have received them.

"It's a double-edged sword," Walls said. "If we ticket, we get complaints. If we don't, we get calls from people who don't want cars there."

He added that his three employees who work weekends "have a lot of other things to do than worry about illegal parking. We're not out to get anyone down there."

The park hosts about 40 games on an average Saturday, according to Bob Rozek, recreations director for the Island Recreation Association, which oversees the leagues.

"I tell my coaches to make sure everybody knows: Don't park where there's not a parking spot, or plan on donating to the town," he said.

Rozek and Walls both said there's overflow parking -- about 135 spaces -- on Castnet Drive across Singleton Beach Road, about a 5-minute walk from the fields.

"I've never seen Castnet full on soccer days," Walls said.

Gregory, whose 6-year-old son plays soccer, said he knows about the extra parking, but his parents and his wife's parents aren't fit to walk that far.

"It's either you park near the field, or you don't go to your grandchild's game," he said.

"It's kind of like they built these big fields but never anticipated there would be people wanting to watch the games," Hershey said.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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