April 28, 2021MEREDITH – Starting on June 1, parking at Leavitt Beach will be restricted to Meredith residents only with a facility use permit.
The selectmen unanimously approved a change to the ordinance to limit parking at Leavitt Beach during their April 19 meeting. Town Manager Phil Warren said this was prompted by concerns about overcrowding at the beach last summer. The ordinance will be enforced and cars without stickers in that lot will be subject to a $50 fine and potential towing and storage fees.
Several people commented in favor of the ordinance change, especially people who live near the beach. People shared their concerns about overcrowding and bad behavior at the beach such as people sleeping on the beach overnight, shooting off fireworks, pulling motorboats up to the swim line.
"I am for it because last year was terrible; I mean, real bad," said John Lee.
Alan Swan said one day in July, he counted 42 vehicles at the beach, 37 of which had out of state plates.
Kevin Burke said the beach last summer was packed with people. His neighbor's family also got the idea of selling parking on the property, making about $300.
"It's gotten precipitously worse since the '90s; the past two years, it's outrageous," Burke said. "It's like an invasion. They're coming by boat and car, and 10 people on a party boat - one of those pontoon boats - pile onto the beach, dogs, everything. I'm in favor of the ordinance, obviously."
Lee asked if the ordinance would be enforced all year, saying it might be better to put it in place between June and August, when most of the issues are. Warren said the regulation would likely be enforced during the busier times. Right now, only town residents are allowed to launch boats, and the town could enforce that all year long, but Warren said it makes more sense to enforce it in the summer.
A few residents expressed concerns about designated guests being allowed on the beach, suggesting the town create a guest pass system.
Sarah Champagne said her babysitter wouldn't have a dump sticker when taking her kids onto the beach, and she also had family members from out of state who come up to visit.
Karen Sticht also said her family members from out of state wouldn't be able to use the beach, and that not every car in her household has a sticker. She also suggested telling the local hotels about the policy so a family with a car full of kids wouldn't be embarrassed having to be turned away from the beach.
"I'm in favor of it generally, but I think there needs to be quite a bit more details worked out for families for situations like this," Sticht said.
R.J. Sullivan, owner of Harbor Hill Camping Area, said he could notify his campers about the ordinance. He also said it would be easy for the camp to offer guest passes to the beach to their guests.
Warren, however, said the town generally doesn't favor a guest pass system. This could be a new program that could create new demands on the staff, including result in the need for more staff.
After discussion, Warren said the board already said this would be the first pass on this matter and the selectmen could revisit this ordinance later and make adjustments. Any tweaks in the future would only require another public hearing that could be scheduled at any time.
Janet and Kevin Burke both asked if the board could also ban people from being on the beach after 10 p.m. Janet said they will hear fireworks off the beach and she had to call the police because she found someone sleeping on the beach. Warren said the town ordinance already prohibits people from being on town facilities after 10 p.m. unless they have special permission. He said that information could also be added to the sign at the gate.
Warren also said that anyone who sees any bad behavior on the beach shouldn't be afraid of calling the police. This way, incidents are logged and the town knows what's going on there.
The selectmen unanimously approved the change in the ordinance, which will go into effect on June 1.