Central Elgin officials say new parking fees will help ease the tax burden on residents and allow for improvements at Port Stanley’s waterfront.

According to the municipality about $200,000 is spent annually for lifeguards and to maintain the beach. The money currently comes from residents’ taxes.

David Marr, deputy mayor for Central Elgin, says moving to paid parking is a model many other communities have established.

“There’s some that have been in existence for 10-15 years for paid parking.”

He believes the community is doing a good job keeping the beach clean and safe for everyone, but says there’s no money to do more.

Other communities have had also big success with parking fees. Grand Bend, for example, has used them to make significant improvements to the community.

“Whether it be a splash pad, more playground equipment, whatever that ends up being, we think that will draw more people,” Marr says.

While out-of-towners prefer free parking, residents say paying for use makes more sense.

The cost is expected to be around $10 per car, per day.

Carol Gates is a local business owner and heads the Port Stanley BIA. She admits businesses weren’t sure about the decision to end free parking at municipal lots, but says most are willing to give it a try.

“We are the very last beach with lifeguards and washrooms where parking is not paid for, so it’s time, and we’re still going to be the cheapest parking around.”

Pay meters are supposed to be in place at municipal lots by the Victoria Day weekend, and while a delay is possible, paid parking is definitely on its way to Port Stanley.