Shiffman estimated the village spends between $65,000 and $80,000 to maintain its beach each year, and charging $10 could bring in about $30,000 in revenue.
Shiffman said he doesn’t think charging for parking would violate the agreement.
“We are not charging an access fee. We are charging simply for the privilege of parking right there at the beach,” Shiffman said.
Village President Susan Carpenter said she worries about the message that pay-to-park would send to the DNR. She views charging $10 as a contract violation.
“I’m not in favor of breaking a contract,” Carpenter said. “If we sign a contract to do something, I believe it’s in the best interest of village not to add that liability. It’s not fair, not honest.”
Shiffman said board members are thinking about installing one machine in a centrally located area that would accept credit and debit cards. Village and township residents would have free passes, but no one is guaranteed one of the 87 spots.
“When they park there, they’re going to want to leave their vehicle there for the day and walk up into the village and shop and walk back down to the beach,” Shiffman said.
He said the village already hires someone to greet visitors and monitor parking, so he doesn’t foresee needing to hire an additional person.
Some local residents also voiced opposition to the parking fee idea.
“I’m concerned that it’s going to be a big stay-away sign for tourism if they have to pay 10 bucks to park at a parking space; that’s 10 dollars that’s not going to come to our business or local businesses,” said Jeremy Houghton, a manager at the Empire Village Inn.
Others who rely on business are less concerned.
“The majority of my customers are astonished that it’s actually free,” said Paul Skinner, who owns the antiques and gifts shop, the Misers’ Hoard, in downtown Empire. “Anyone who doesn’t pay for it through their taxes should have to pay for it.”