A committee created to study options for this year’s city of Flagler Beach July 4 celebration will likely recommend that a fireworks show proceed, but suggest a shorter parade, an increased effort to fight underage drinking, and a fee for shuttle transportation between the beach and the mainland.
“The thought is to have a more organized, family-friendly kind of a day, laid out, advertised in advance,” committee chairman Scott Spradley told Flagler Beach city commissioners at a Nov. 18 commission meeting.
"The thought is to have a more organized, family-friendly kind of a day, laid out, advertised in advance."
— SCOTT SPRADLEY, committee chairman
The committee had been formed amid concerns about whether the city should continue to hold its long-running fireworks show this year.
Flagler Beach and Palm Coast both canceled last year’s fireworks shows because of COVID-19 safety concerns.
Spradley told commissioners at the Nov. 18 meeting that the committee’s focus has become less about whether to have fireworks this year, and more about how to have them.
That means preventing the problems that make the fireworks event unappealing for some, he said.
“If we can get that under control and make it safer, make ingress and egress easier and make parking something accommodating, then it may be ... that the fireworks, as scheduled, is something that can be done and it would be a lot less unappetizing,” he said.
The committee has met five times so far and will be ready to make recommendations before the end of the year, he said. It spent its first few meetings identifying problems.
“It was pretty quick that we came to the conclusion that traffic, parking and overall safety ... are the three primary challenges,” Spradley said. “The population on the island that day is phenomenal.”
"I don't think, for anybody, it's even been really about the fireworks; it's about what comes with it — the all-day drunk fest and the fights and everything."
— ERIC COOLEY, City Commission chairman
As in recent years, he said, a traffic plan will direct people north or south on State Road A1A after the event, depending on whether they came from north or south of State Road 100. The city may also call in helicopter assistance.
The committee will recommend that the city continue its use of shuttles to ferry people from the mainland to the beach, but may advise that the city begin charging people for the shuttle ride, which has been free in the past.
“The analogy that we talked about was, it’s quite common to go to St. Augustine for the day and drop a $20 bill at the parking garage, so why not charge to get over here and back?” Spradley said.
There could be multiple fee options depending on whether people plan to head back and forth throughout the day or just come east once and then head back west later.
There will be more parking options this year on the west side of the bridge: Parking at Boston Whaler, Babcock Furniture and other businesses will add about 730 spots, Spradley said.
As for the parade, Spradley said, there’s been one common resident complaint.
“One thing that we hear is that the parade is just too long — particularly on election years,” he said.
The committee might suggest adding a cap on the number of parade entries, he said.
And to make the event more welcoming for families, he said, the committee will plan a slate of family-friendly events and look at ways to crack down on underage drinking, and publicize the fact that it will be doing so.
Police Chief Matt Doughney, Spradley said, has suggested the possibility of bringing in other law enforcement agencies to patrol.