August 27. 2018 9:58AM

Illegal parking in Franconia Notch reduced without heavy-handed ticketing

Union Leader Correspondent

As a pair of hikers comes off the Falling Waters/Old Bridle Path on Aug. 21, a sign tells those going up about a shuttle service being run within Franconia Notch State Park. The shuttle is one way that the state and its partners are trying to reduce illegal parking along the two-lane Franconia Notch Parkway. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

FRANCONIA — Although the evidence so far is anecdotal, it appears there is less illegal parking taking place in Franconia Notch, possibly thanks to a shuttle bus service for hikers and an education campaign by state agencies.

At trail heads in the Notch, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation has placed flyers to remind hikers to park legally and also to tell them where to do so. Once those lots are full, overflow parking is available in the Peabody Slopes lot off Exit 34C.

The flyers also warn that if the illegal parking is “not voluntarily changed,” then “ticketing and towing” may be employed as a “last resort.”

On one peak day last year, officials from Franconia Notch State Park said they counted upward of 700 vehicles parked in the Notch, with some vehicles along the highway.

Earlier this month, Franconia Notch State Park began running two 11-passenger shuttle buses on weekends to get hikers to trails near the Lafayette Campground, and also to the Falling Waters/Old Bridle Path and the Lonesome Lake/Dodge Cutoff/Pemigewasset trails.

Rain or shine, there is one shuttle on Fridays and Mondays from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and two during the same hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

The cost for the shuttle is $5 per person, and as of Wednesday, the state park recorded 223 riders to date, said Phil Bryce, the director of the Division of Parks and Recreation.

He said the busiest day was Aug. 19 when 125 people rode the shuttles, adding his agency would evaluate the shuttle runs at the end of the season on Oct. 14.

What is known in the three weeks the shuttle has been in service, however, is that “right now it’s not paying for itself, and being a self-funded park system we’re going to figure that out,” said Bryce.

The state is leasing the shuttle buses, said Bryce, and has hired two people to drive them. He said the full cost of the shuttle program, including fuel, will be known later this year.

That information will be useful in helping the state determine whether it wants to continue the shuttles, he said, to share with a private contractor, “or there may be something else that we haven’t come up with.”