ByLyndsey Gough|May 7, 2020 at 10:48 PM EDT - Updated May 7 at 11:38 PM
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Thursday was the first day all Georgia beaches were open without certain restrictions. The Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s order banned some items like chairs and umbrellas.
The beaches are fully re-opened on Tybee Island, but if you paid to park, you may have noticed the rates went up seemingly over night.
While beach-goers from near and far took advantage of Thursday’s sunshine, Tybee Police patrolled the shoreline to ensure everyone was practicing social distancing and abiding by the smoking ban.
Some were surprised to see a rate increase when they paid to park.
“To know that we got to pay three dollars and fifty cents, it’s definitely outrageous," said Tybee resident Michaela Bryant.
Her friend, Joi Lucas agreed.
”Just for one hour and it doesn’t even cost that much to go downtown to do all that," Lucas added.
Tybee City Manager Shawn Gillen said his position gives him authority to adjust prices as he sees fit, so the increase from $3.00 an hour to $3.50 an hour wasn’t voted on by the council, but he said it was necessary given what they’ve lost in tourism revenue. The change took place on Wednesday.
“It was really a reaction to the pandemic and the loss of revenue, because we’re not real sure what we’re going to get back for the remainder of the year, but costs are still there," Gillen said over the phone. “We don’t take this lightly. We understand that people don’t like it.”
He added that the city relies on that parking money for things like paying the lifeguards, parking enforcement, and the 14th street parking lot project.
Bryant and Lucas went to the beach for a quick workout, but said they’re concerned that out-of-town tourists have flocked to Georgia’s beaches.
“It’s definitely terrifying,” Lucas said.
”Now that things are calming down, people are going to start ignoring it more, and they’re going to be like, ‘oh, we can go out now, it’s safe,’ but you still have to be cautious."
Gillen said that Thursday was incident-free on the beach, and they had around 4,000 visitors to the Island.
Some out-town visitors said they thought $3.50 was a fair price to park, and they didn’t mind paying it.