Conway Lake

The town beach on Conway Lake, seen in 2019, is located on Mill Street in Center Conway, with parking on the opposite side of the street. Selectmen voted Tuesday to limit parking at the lake to Conway residents and second homeowners. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — Selectmen on Tuesday decided that the Conway Lake parking lot on Mill Street should be for town residents and second homeowners with special parking stickers and no longer open to the general public.

The parking lot is across the street from Conway Lake's beach and boat launch, and is small.

In addition, at the recommendation of staff and the Conway Lake Conservation Association, a group of lakeside homeowners that monitors the health of the lake, selectmen chose not to charge for use of the town-owned boat ramp.

In January, selectmen voted to put paid parking later this spring at Davis Park, the east side of First Bridge and Smith-Eastman Landing on Meeting House Road. They took this action because recreation sites have been overrun with tourists since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents — including apartment renters and second homeowners — who want to park in those areas will need to get a (free) parking sticker. Everyone else must pay for a $20 day pass.

This program is expected to start around Memorial Day.

On Tuesday, selectmen added Conway Lake's parking lot to the list of areas that require the sticker to park. But the $20 day pass will not be an option.

Town Manager Tom Holmes said the lake association asked the town to hold off on any proposal to charge a boat ramp fee for at least a year.

"I believe staff is in favor of holding off on boat ramp fees for a year until we can iron out some of the details," said Holmes.

Then he said: "We (staff) have a further recommendation that for this summer, we make the parking lot Conway Lake, a parking sticker-only parking lot ... You wouldn't be able to pay to get in there. And do not allow trucks with trailers in there because they take up too many spaces."

He said the concern with ramp fees was boat owners could find unmonitored places to launch in order to avoid the fee and in doing so could introduce invasive milfoil into the lake. 

The boat launch is monitored by Lake Hosts paid by the lake association but who are technically employees of the N.H. Lakes Association in Concord.

The hosts check boats for invasive species but are not allowed to do parking management, according to a memo the lake association sent to the town. After a discussion, selectmen voted 5-0 to approve that plan.

During the discussion, Selectman John Colbath asked if there would be an "enforcement issue."

Holmes replied that the town would have an "enforcement officer" who would write tickets to those parking without a sticker. He added the public may still park in the few spots along Mill Street.

Selectman Mary Carey Seavey asked if parking along the road might cause a safety hazard.

"I've been at that beach and the people travel extremely fast in that area," said Seavey.

Holmes said during the past summer, those wishing to use the lake were also able to use the nearby Pine Tree School's parking lot; however, there's no formal agreement with the town and school on that.

The memo from the association said that "parking fees and enforced, designated parking areas with, Parking and No Parking signs on Mill Street, would reduce congestion and general traffic chaos on Mill Street and in the beach parking lot. To that end, occasionally placing a roadside radar detector on Mill Street also would help."

Conway voters next month at the polls will be asked through Article 18 to purchase a radar detector for the cost of $8,500.

The memo also said that Pine Tree School would be a "logical" place for people with boat trailers to park and it's used by bass fishing tournament participants.

Association members signing the memo were president Kin Earle, Rick Blank, Tom Deans and Mark Guerringue, who is the Sun's publisher.

Before the vote was taken, Recreation Director John Eastman said residents with stickers also should be prohibited from leaving their boat trailers in the parking lot and signage would state that. Violators could be subject to a $100 fine.

The board's vote to restrict parking at the beach was unanimous.

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