There are only 20 towns left around Lake Balaton with free beaches, nepszava.hu reports, and locals are fighting to at least keep these.
There is a petition asking the government to share their plans regarding public beaches and to guarantee that they will not decrease the number of free beaches in the next five years. Those who started the petition say that since 2016 local governments have the right to sell free beaches, in order to build luxury houses or apartment blocks on them.
Today there are only 20 towns and villages around Lake Balaton with beaches that are completely free to use. There are six towns where there are only free beaches: Balatonkeresztúr, Balatonfenyves, Balatonboglár, Balatonszemes, Zamárdi and Örvényes. Unfortunately, they will not get any financial support from the Magyar Turizmus Zrt., because they only help with development and renovation if there is a chance that the money will come back.
The mayor of Zamárdi said that, although they are not planning to collect entrance fees at the beaches in Zamárdi, they still need to get money from somewhere to pay for maintenance, which is why they charge for parking at the shore. They are trying to take this as fair as possible; locals and those who stay in town as tourists pay less. Those visitors who come from a neighbouring town, just because the beach is free here, but do not plan on spending money in Zamárdi, they pay more to keep the free beaches in good condition.
The town of Zamárdi spends about 10 million Ft (31,000 euros) every year for maintenance: mowing the grass, transporting the waste, paying for the water in the outdoor showers or for the free WiFi. The local government is trying to collect some money from parking fees to be able to afford all these.
In Balatonmáriafürdő there is a central beach with an entrance fee, but there are also seven other free beaches. Of course, there is a higher standard of service at the central beach, says mayor György Galácz. There is a 12-14 million Ft (37-43,000 euros) income generated there, but this is not enough to cover the expenses of the free beaches. The town is still willing to do this, even though it is getting harder and harder to get the extra money so those beaches can remain free.
Other towns also feel that they are committed to keep some of their beaches free. In Balatonfenyves and Balatonboglár they are doing the same thing as in Zamárdi, using pay parking to cover the expenses.
There are only two towns on the north side of Lake Balaton with free beaches. One of them, Örvényes, only has free beaches. Because of the sizes of the beaches, they could only welcome 220 paying visitors, but that would not be enough to generate an income to cover for the salaries of the cashiers and cleaners, says mayor Zoltán Huszár, so they will all stay free. The buffet does the maintenance of the free beach. They pay less for rent, in exchange, the buffet is responsible for mowing the grass and keeping the area clean.