It has been a disappointing summer in Port Stanley.

Along with cool weather for part of the summer and the economy still struggling, business owners also point to the municipality imposing a parking fee on beach-goers for a drop in business.

“It’s pretty consistently 25 per cent down on the weekends and more than that on the weekdays,” says Greg Lale of Mackie's.

In the spring, Central Elgin started a pilot project, charging visitors $2 per hour for daytime parking on the beach, up to a maximum of $10.

“Definitely the paid parking has played a role. It gets people a little agitated paying $10 to go to the beach. They were spending it at our store. Now they’re spending it on parking,” says Mike Atallah of Kazwear Swimwear.

The money collected from the parking is being set aside for maintenance of the Blue Flag water quality program and other public amenities at the beach.

Central Elgin Councillor Dan McNeil says paid parking got off to a rough start.

“We are doing it as a trial. I am glad because the start of the trial was very rocky. We did a lot of things wrong the first couple weeks and it’s taken the season to even things out.”

Some beach-goers believe paid parking is still doing more harm than good.

“I was only able to scrounge up a bit of change so I didn't stay as long as I would have otherwise,” says Jennifer Smith.

Rick Redman says he has not made as many trips to Port Stanley as he normally does, going travelling instead, to spots where there is free parking.

Paid parking ends in October. 

Then the public and beachside businesses will have an opportunity to weigh in on whether paid parking should return next summer.

“We will be talking with them as well at the end of the season and accepting their advice and judgment,” McNeil says.