SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Close to 25,000 people visited Tybee Island over the weekend. Mayor Shirley Sessions said they weren’t prepared for the crowds and parking was a huge issue.
She said Memorial Day is expected to bring in even more people.
“It’s like having company and you’re expecting four people and somehow 50 people show up,” said Sessions.
Tybee Island has a population size of just over 3,000 people. Over the weekend, the city estimated their visitor count was eight times that.
“There was simply not enough parking for Tybee,” said Sessions. “That was the biggest challenge, people parking illegally in residential areas that were inappropriate.”
Traffic was backed up for miles and Sessions said that in total, more than 12,000 cars made their way onto the island.
She said in the future, electronic signs may be used to warn people that the island’s parking is at capacity.
“You may want to turn around and come back another time,” she said of a possible warning.
While Tybee police did have their hands full over the weekend, Sessions said they’ll be better prepared next time. Recently one of their officers contracted COVID-19, but a spokesperson said the department is now in good health.
He said you can expect to see more law enforcement policing the island for Memorial Day weekend.
“We have a lot of highly dedicated, highly trained officers that work here for the Tybee Island police department,” said Emory Randolph with the Tybee Police Department. “We are taking some precautions to try to protect them and the public the best we can, but we are not going to let that interfere with our ability to do our job.”
Sessions said beachgoers were well behaved, but not everyone was social distancing.
“That’s a personal responsibility, you know, what the CDC has said…what our health department is saying,” said Sessions. “You just need to make your own decisions and sadly those decisions could impact other people.”
Sessions is recommending anyone considered high risk to stay home and avoid the beaches this weekend.
City council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss expanding outdoor dining options. Sessions tells News 3 this will help restaurants better accommodate the crowds.