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Expanded parking on Siesta Key not enough for holiday weekend crowds

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Monday is Labor Day, a time meant to honor the hard work and dedication of America's work-force. And for many on the Suncoast, the celebration means some well-earned rest and relaxation on one of America's best beaches…if you can find a parking spot.

That problem was supposed to be addressed on Siesta Key with the creation of additional parking. So how is it going on this holiday?

The new 100-parking space lot was definitely put to good use Monday. But even the additional parking wasn't enough to accommodate all the beachgoers this holiday weekend.

Hundreds of beachgoers flooded the parking lots Monday morning, but by noon, both lots were nearly at capacity.

"It's been pretty busy. Yesterday we had to drop all the girls and the coolers and then ride bikes back up," said Rob Davis, visiting from Cincinnati. His group of friends got lucky Monday morning, with a spot right by the pavilion.

Others were left to park in the new lot, further away from the main access point, hitching a ride on the Siesta Key free ride taxi. “It was more like an overflow parking, so half our group is still back there, pulling coolers, and unfortunately they've got a long way to go," said Lou Carlsen and Tammy Weir from Brandon.

The free taxi service made its way from the village to condos to parking lots, making the beach experience easier for visitors. "They love it. They love the service, you know, that way they're not worn out by the time they get out on the beach."

Others visiting from out of town gave up trying to find a space after making multiple loops around both lots. "We spent about 15 minutes, you know, trying to follow people, and wait and we haven't found anything. So we just went to get one of those paid parkings," said Ana Guzman from Miami.

For the youth at St. Boniface church, they depend on busy weekends and holidays to raise money for their mission trips. "We've made over $2,000 in one day before. We charge $10 per car, so that's about 200 cars. And then by the time we get around there we have to start turning cars down,” said parking attendant Logan Sandow.

But with the new lot in place for two months now, the boys say they've lost business.

And as construction is completed at Siesta Beach Park, they expect to lose more.

For updates on the ongoing improvements at Siesta Key Beach, visit siestabeachinfo.com/construction-updates.