Kearsage North Trailhead Parking Tickets

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
There was a mention the other day in the Conway paper that the town of Bartlett was writing parking tickets on the north side of the road at the trailhead for cars parking on the pavement. The south side of the road is posted no parking. The claim was that a local officer was writing tickets on both sides of the road irrespective of if there were no parking signs or not due to local complaints. Most north country towns have overnight street parking bans but this appears to be first. Kearsage North gets heavy usage year round and the parking area at best hold 8 cars. It has a pretty good slope on it and can get icy. I usually avoid using it as its easy to get stuck. The writer speculated that this was a revenue mission for the town.
I thought there was talk of building a new lot? I don't think it is only a potential revenue generating mission for the town. Rather, I suspect that it is equally possible that homeowners on Hurricane Mtn. Road are complaining about the road parking. This has been the case for the homeowners at the end of Mt. Surprise Road -- they have been dealing with a huge influx of hikers going to Bartlett Mt. and have been posting no trespassing signs at the cul-de-sac. There is a kiosk there, but unclear to me how many car spots are available without parking on the sides of the sac. Note that for Kearsage North you can also park at the water tank another half mile further on Hurricane Mtn. Road (where the mountain bikers park to access the trails on Black Cap). Not a huge area and be careful about ticketing if you park on the road there too. Even before the pandemic, the number of people hiking and biking has been increasing and of course with the pandemic it is skyrocketing (not to mention the milder winter thus far). On any weekend during the summer and fall months, the Black Cap trail lot is an absolute zoo -- that is developing into the next Diana's Baths debacle. I don't see any great solution with steady population growth. Bigger lots draw bigger crowds. On the plus side, older trails that were getting little use are now being used more frequently.
Walking and hiking as a way of coping with staying at home is on increase plus taking separate cars to trail heads to enable hiking and walking with folks who are not in your isolation bubble is one reason for crowded trail head parking lots. Hopefully trailhead parking will normalize in next 4-6 months or so. Kearsarge North is one super mountain and trail with much bang for the buck and so close to town. I hiked it for first time fall of 2019. I recall parking lot did have the slight pitch like PB notes. It would be relatively cheap infrastructure improvement to enlarge and correct the pitch and assuage complaints from residents.
I think the problem with expanding the parking lot is that the area adjacent to the parking lot is most likely a wetland. It would be a major permitting effort to expand it.

My guess is the locals who complained about parking want it go away not improved. A very similar issue was occurring at Diana's Bath pre Covid where new home owners moved into existing homes and ungraded them plus new developments to get their chunk of the North Conway paradise. Despite their being a large parking lot at Diana's Bath there was still overflow parking issues. No doubt this parking issue is at least partially driven by the real estate turnover. Bartlett is actually a small town with minimal policing, a change in selectman or police personnel can quickly change enforcement priorities. The Conway Sun is the only local news source, they are a free paper with very limited staff to actually report local news. This parking report was the result of a letter to the editor. If it turns into a way of getting more eyes on the paper generating ad revenue then it will become a headline and then the reason why the parking enforcement may come out.
I'm guessing majority of users are locals. I guess majority of users travel less than 5 or 6 miles. The out and back can be done in 2 or 3 hours so many visitors are no doubt repeat visitors perhaps walking or running the dogs multi-times per week maintain conditioning for general health one of the perc's of living in Mt Wash Valley. Very light pack or no pack at all. I suppose this model of behavior fits closely typical visitors to Diana's Baths. N Kearsarge and Diana's are "Destinations" for local area, seldom an all-day destination for someone who has to drive drive 20, 50, or 100 miles.

Only reason I visited was peak's reputation for great views. I needed to shop at REI Conway and figured this was good opportunity to check out this peak. I took longer than 3 hours due to time spent savoring magnificent views of Mount Washington for at least an hour and probably be long before I'd be coming back. Come to think of it I did observe party of at least 4-5 folks equipped with sleeping bags no doubt to enjoy star gazing from relative warmth of the fire tower. Those folks probably tied up quite a few parking spaces for long time periods. Trip like that is unique perhaps a once in lifetime opportunity well worth driving 100 miles for. Hummm ... bucket list item ###???
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...My guess is the locals who complained about parking want it go away not improved. A very similar issue was occurring at Diana's Bath pre Covid where new home owners moved into existing homes and ungraded them plus new developments to get their chunk of the North Conway paradise...

Sounds a lot like over here "across the pond" in the Adirondacks. We have quite a number of folks with the "I've got mine, now I want the government to chase everyone else out" mentality.
It's not necessarily overflow parking that drums up the local angst. Often times, there are a few bad eggs who get in a confrontation with adjacent landowners that make the situation boil over. That's happened in the Belknaps in recent years. Somewhat unrelated, that's also why Mad River Glen doesn't allow snowboarders (they did until there was a confrontation when the then-owner over a restriction).
Kearsage North is very popular in the region, not just locals. I find folks from all over hiking it. I will drive down on occasion from Gorham, the weather south of the notches can be far different than north of the notches and I can hit the local grocery stores with their far better selection after the hike. Its about an hour from Portland and closer to the lakes region of Maine. Its an ideal winter hike. Its south facing and has shelter from west and NW winds up to the open ledges. The open ledges before the summit cone make a destination of their own. The open summit with the enclosed tower also adds a lot of attraction. No doubt various social media sources point out all its benefits. The North Conway area is going through another boom time. Vail resorts bought some local ski areas a few years back and the North Conway area is getting nationwide notice on various media sites that previously were given to west coast ski towns. Short term rentals have moved in hard into the area and many are owned by out of state investors who are running them as a business. This is putting in a lot of effectively commercial operations into residential and seasonal neighborhoods. There is a pretty steady push back by full time home owners (many retirees from southern New England) against short term rental owners trying to put limits on them. There is definitely a very obvious undercurrent that the property owners regard short term rentals as a blight on their neighborhoods. It may be hard to push back on short term rentals but its easy to see cars parked along the road and call their selectman to do something.
Most of the cars on any given day are MA or otherwise out of state. As to short term rentals, this area is in the Kearsarge Lighting Precinct, which prohibits rentals that are not owner-occupied. That is the subject an ongoing battle between local full time residents and rental property owners. The KLP bylaws have not had consistent enforcement and the local realtors have been selling the non-enforcement story for years. It came to ahead pre-pandemic. Unclear how it will be resolved but there are various bylaw amendments to provide some ability to have short term rentals, though they are very restrictive. There has been a lot of discussion about the issue in the valley and various Daily Sun editorials that I won’t bother to recite here.
I think the rental issue will continue to grow as services like Air B&B and the like. You'll need to define owner occupied? According to the Timeshare we have, we're fractional owners, is that enough? If not, what if they live there three months, or will it follow taxes and occupancy of six months and a day?

The beach towns in NJ dealt with this years ago as towns were being trashed by rentals (one reality show actually at least based on reality) I usually only get to Kearsarge North when at the condo and it's a two mile ride, or less, so I usually get a spot or I even just walk although the first hill on Hurricane Mt. Road makes a steep warm up.
Not really getting the line of thinking or rationalizations about how this being printed in The Conway Daily and them needing an event of this sort to occur in order to attract readership. News is news. Yes it is a small town “FREE” publication. Although they don’t seem to be hurting considering all the advertisements they attract. Plain and simple if the lot is full go elsewhere or get ticketed. I suspect that many other so called local trailheads are experiencing similar issues with all the information out there on the Web. Many smaller lesser know trailheads have come into play with the pandemic and whether that tapers off is to be seen. GBA is one of the organizations that will be interesting to track. With AT skiing on the uprise it only stands that trailheads and the roads to access them will only become more popular. Hopefully folks follow the “RULES” aka parking ordinances and not create any situations with the locals. Or else who knows before you know it everyone will be seeking their little piece of paradise north of Rt. 2. Below is a bit of info about Crescent Mt. and it’s Trailhead. Note the mention of parking rules. I have numerous friends that have homes on Hurricane Mt. Road near the N. Kearsage Trailhead and they have been very tolerant over the years about roadside parking. Hopefully people smarten up otherwise I guess the Bartlett Police can keep lining their coffers. What rules are good for one local community easily translates to another.
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I think the confusing part was that author of the letter to the editor stated the the road is posted no parking on one side of the road and is not posted on the north side of the road. The town of Bartlett was writing tickers on the cars parked on the north side of the road which the individual claimed is not posted. Pure speculation on my part is the Conway/Bartlett town line runs down what appears to be the centerline of the road so there are two jurisdictions enforcing different local parking polices on each side to the road. IMHO, this would definitely be confusing to a first time visitor. How would someone from outside the area know that Bartlett has different parking rules than North Conway?. In this case it sure looks to me that this is revenue or punitive operation.

Not sure what confusion is regarding the free paper. They need to attract eyeballs in order for someone to pickup their free paper. Since they are free they have to balance what resources they dedicate to news versus advertising. They are going to cover the news that gets people to pick up the paper. They recently have started requiring electronic registrations to get access to the electronic edition as they claim that with Covid that their overall readership is down. They have had numerous articles on the Kearsage Lighting district short term rentals,short term rentals in Conway in general, the Diana's bath parking issues and the Tyrol access but to date this is the first time I have heard of the Kearsage Road parking issues and only via a letter to the editor.
The parking area for Keasarge North is in Bartlett? I've always parked on that side of the road, on the wide spot that's slanted towards the ditch. Now they are ticketing? That doesn't make sense
Interesting to the north immediately after the road right of way is actually a State Forest. Whether that has any influence going forward is to be seen. My guess the next event unraveling will be the Town of Bartlett posting that side of the road. I suspect but not sure about the ticketing jurisdiction even though not signed may have been based on the grounds that vehicles may have not been fully off the pavement. Therefore causing a traffic hazard. Aside from laws, rules and access the present obvious congestion and parking at Trailheads is going to be a challenge at least for the near future. As being local and also knowing the publishers of The Conway Daily Sun I’m of course not that critical of their operation. To be honest parking tickets being given out on Hurricane Mt. Road is big news in the MWV. Again being old as dirt and a self proclaimed Curmudgeon I remember not to mention pre Internet only having a few several weekly publications for news. The onset of The Conway Daily Sun forever changed the area.
Yes, north side of H Mtn Rd is Bartlett. Bartlett is super wide east to west. The KLP adds another layer of confusion for home buyers, as KLP overlaps both Bartlett and North Conway. I am not sympathetic to people who don’t do their homework re local laws, including parking, but it also demonstrates the challenges with complying with the myriad of rules that our legislators regularly adopt (rarely going back to harmonize with the pre-existing laws).
This is a very enlightening thread for me. First, I had no idea Bartlett was so wide. I always thought it was just the village of Bartlett. Second, I never heard of the KLP. Looks like it is similar to an HOA with all kinds of rules and regulations.