OK, so Gloucester officials are not allowed by ordinance to collect fees for parking in the lots at Good Harbor, Wingaersheek or Stage Fort Park's beaches until May 1.
And, yes, Marc Cole, the city's assistant public works director, makes a good point when he notes that, as of Monday's Patriots Day, the city hasn't even hired its summer staff of beach parking attendants, lifeguards and other who will staff these sites in the months ahead.
But that's no reason for the city to leave thousands of residents and out-of-town beachgoers to fend for themselves when they swarmed to Gloucester's beaches on the holiday, which was forecast several days in advance.
In truth, the city's poor preparation for Monday's multiple traffic debacle needs to be addressed for what it was — a dangerous disregard for public safety that dumped a grossly unfair workload on the city's Police Department and likely sent at least hundreds of out-of-town beach visitors home, vowing never to come back.
One issue at hand is the city's beach ordinance, which requires Gloucester to collect parking fees from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and allows the city to "open" beaches as of May 1 if it deems fit. Given that, Cole indicated the city had no options to alleviate Monday's madness — that it could not open the beach parking areas because of the ordinance.
Yet police did open the parking areas, answering the demands of Monday's beach mobs. That was the right call; while the ordinance says the city may open the parking areas as of May 1, it does not specifically ban any openings prior to that. And, especially given the extended forecasts, there was no logical reason for the city to not have turned on the water and other utilities to at least ensure beachgoers had a place to go to the bathroom.
Yes, there were many reasons for Monday's chaotic traffic and beach rush, and some are justified.
But the biggest issue was the city's total lack of preparedness — and there's really no excuse for that.