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Frustration, light crowds favorite Gandy Beach on Memorial Day due to limited parking

There was even some frustration among those who did find a parking spot at the beach.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One of the traditional Memorial Day hot spots in the Tampa Bay area is Gandy Beach — but this year, the crowd was thinner and depending upon what time you got there, it could have been more frustrating, too.

“We were disappointed,” Katherine O’Driscoll, who could not find a parking spot at the beach, said. “Looking for a place to park, and then they even shut the beach down. They are closed, so, it was kind of disappointing.”

There was even some frustration among those who did find a spot.

Daniel Lee drove his family over an hour to experience Gandy Beach’s white sand but settled for a spot in the mangroves half a mile down the road.

“At least we got a spot,” he said.

The foundation for the parking frustration was a 2,200-foot-long natural gas pipeline project meant to expand capacity at the nearby Weedon Island power plant.

Parking had already been curtailed after the Florida Department of Transportation installed nearly 900 wooden posts earlier this year meant to keep cars out of the sensitive mangroves that line the area.

A gate was also installed along with logs, cement barricades and other measures meant to limit access.

The pipe project closed off a huge section of beach parking forcing some to walk it in from a distance.

Most obeyed the rules, but some also walked into the construction zone to find a place to fire up the grill and go for a swim.

Others drove off in frustration hoping to find an alternative, but Ian Yetzke who'd gone to Pass-a-Grille a day earlier said he’d searched for parking there too.

“Yeah, two hours [I searched],” Yetzke said.

The one benefit — for those who came early enough to stake a claim — was that fewer parking spots meant fewer people on a beach usually packed this time of year.

“It is way less crazy than we thought and we did get a great spot,” Jamie Kilpatrick said, who got to the beach in the morning.

“They should've let us know in different spots or maybe done this in the wintertime and not the summertime when the beach is going to be full,” O’Driscoll suggested.

Beach visitor Ian Lemus tried to keep things in perspective.

“Truthfully, having today off isn't about just going to the beach, you know, it's Memorial Day,” Lemus said. “So, there are things that are far more important than not being able to go to the beach.”

If you are planning a trip out to Gandy Beach, be warned. The natural gas pipeline project is expected to last at least another three to four weeks.

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