Parking restrictions mean Jaffrey’s Contoocook Beach is a little quieter this summer

  • The Jaffrey Contoocook Beach had a calm weekend, in what regular Jaffrey beachgoers said was a rarity prior to parking restrictions being enforced that limit the beach parking lot to Jaffrey residents only. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Jaffrey Contoocook Beach had a calm weekend, in what regular Jaffrey beachgoers said was a rarity prior to parking restrictions being enforced that limit the beach parking lot to Jaffrey residents only. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/21/2021 5:17:48 PM

On a hot weekend afternoon, the parking lot at the Contoocook Beach in Jaffrey was barely half full.

That’s a novelty, said Rachael Howard, of Jaffrey, who was enjoying the sun at the beach this weekend.

“We live in Jaffrey, and we love it here – it’s pretty much the only place in town to swim,” Howard said. “But last year it got overcrowded. Any time after lunch on the weekends, and the parking lot was full. You had to get here early in the morning.”

At the entrance to the beach parking lot, a Parks and Recreation attendant spoke to beachgoers and handed out fliers announcing new parking rules for the beach, rules which the town began enforcing in earnest this summer. Last year, while exploring the possibility of creating a sticker or permit system for beach parking, after multiple complaints that the parking lot was glutted with out-of-state cars, the town found that the parking lot had originally been gifted to the town under the condition that it be used for free parking for Jaffrey residents only. The restriction is noted on the property deed, and is binding.

The town began a process of educating the public last year, and began enforcing the forgotten policy this summer, and tightened parking restrictions on streets surrounding the beach, as well as the other town beach, Shattuck Park.

Residents with a sticker to the town’s transfer station, available free for Jaffrey residents, can park at either location in the parking area. Vehicles without a permit can be fined $50, and are subject to be towed.

Jaffrey Police Chief Todd Muilenberg said Friday that so far, the Jaffrey Police Department has mainly concentrated on educating drivers with verbal warnings, informational fliers, and written warnings, with “very few” formal tickets issued.

“We’re trying to get everyone up to speed before we start ticketing,” Muilenberg said.

However, while parking is restricted, the actual beach is not, and beachgoers can park at other public parking – namely Humiston Field, which is about a 15 or 20 minute walk away, and walk in to the beach.

That was what Ashley Burgess of Nashua and her family did when visiting the beach for the day this weekend.

Burgess said her family was allowed to drop off their things, including a shade umbrella and cooler, before parking at Humiston Field, but said she’d like to see some other solution, as a long walk with beach equipment or small children isn’t ideal.

The town of Jaffrey has discussed possible solutions for the out-of-town residents who often use the beach, particularly the neighboring town of Rindge, and have even met with the Rindge Select Board to discuss possible solutions.

The town has researched changing the deed, Town Manager Jon Frederick said in an interview Monday, but have ultimately found it is not possible. The boards have discussed other potential solutions, including a limited amount of street parking near the beach – which would be open to anyone as it’s on a public road – or a shuttle system from the Humiston Field.

Frederick said the town has not made any final decisions on those options, but is still researching the possibility of a shuttle system.

“We’re still discussing options right now. We’re still in the learning phase of this new ordinance,” Frederick said. “For now, we have a beach attendant to help people understand what their options are. Parking at Humiston is still a viable option.”

Burgess said any of those options would be preferable to the current solution, and said she and other out-of-towners would be willing to pay for a day parking pass, or for a shuttle.

Some Jaffrey residents who were on the beach Sunday said they had mixed feelings about the parking area being limited to only Jaffrey residents. Some said Rindge residents should be included, noting that the lake is shared between the two towns, though the beach is in Jaffrey, and the shared school system. But others said the beach had become overcrowded, and since the restriction was put into place, the beach has become a nicer place to visit.

Joshua Levesque of Jaffrey said he’s a former Peterborough resident, and was already accustomed to the idea of a “town-only” beach. He said increasing parking options, either through making it easier to access from Humiston Field or street parking, could be a double-edged sword.

“It would be great to have some more parking, but you also don’t want to create more parking than the facilities can support,” Levesque said.

Donald and Noreen Bardsley of Jaffrey, said they have visited the beach several times this summer, after avoiding it in previous years because of how crowded it had become.

“I think this is great,” Donald Bardsley said. “I hate restricting anyone, but we were overrun.”

Noreen Bardsley said the restrictions are not out of line with other town swimming areas, including Peterborough and Dublin.

“I really like it the way it is now,” Donald Bardsley said. “There’s enough water around, every town should be able to have their own swimming area. This makes it more enjoyable for Jaffrey residents, and we’re entitled to that.”




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