Letter: DEP Carrying Capacity

Letters to the Editor
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection under the Division of Recreation and Parks has the responsibility of planning the use and management of Florida's public lands and water areas. Governments are tasked with development and management strategies and plans for the quality of recreation experiences and protection of the natural areas which are directly affected by the implementation of the land use plans.

As we write our state legislators regarding the current hot topic of the "garage” on Anna Maria Island, perhaps we should encourage a study using the DEP Carrying Capacity Guidelines.

Carrying capacity is the maximum population that can be sustained by a specific environment. Carrying capacity computations are vital to the planning of new use sites, alterations of existing use sites, and continuous management of all areas of the system. To prevent overcrowding and resource deterioration, the collection of data is fundamental to assessment.

Carrying capacity for a given site governs the number of parking spaces, the size of restrooms, and all quantities of support facilities to be provided. Surveys on tourists' perspectives have shown that, in addition to beach cleanliness, safety, information availability, and habitat management, overcrowding is considered a very significant criterion by potential visitors.

These are the broad capacities:
  • Economic: maximum number of tourists that an area can support
  • Biophysical: damage to the natural environment exceeds the habitat's ability to regenerate
  • Social: reduced visitor enjoyment and increased crime/indicators of when the social carrying capacity has been exceeded
  • Environmental: ecological and physical parameters, the capacity of resources, ecosystems, and infrastructure
Doug Lansky, an international tourism advisor, has a great YouTube video on tourism, "a new model for success in tourism that emphasizes sustainable growth, protecting local assets, and enhancing life for the locals while maximizing the local economic impact.”
In a required Economic Impact Statement submitted by Elliott Facione, Executive Director of Manatee County Tourism Development, there is a $45 million parking garage for 1500 spaces. That is $30 thousand per parking space and does not include the suggested $400 thousand in annual maintenance. 

The area of Anna Maria Island is less than half of a percent of the total area of Manatee County. The garage is not a panacea for a county with a population of over 400,000, and a small city currently showing 32,000 vehicles daily on their LPRs (License Plate Readers) on a non-holiday.

Other Florida jurisdictions have conducted these carrying capacity studies and planned accordingly. Please encourage legislators to use smart and sensible studies and planning strategies for the benefit of residents, visitors, businesses, and the environment.

Margie Motzer
Anna Maria Island

Reader Comments
Misty Servia
MAR 15, 2023  •  A very good letter and logical approach. Manatee County did a carrying capacity study on our roadways about 20 years ago.