April 06, 2020

Parking issue divides Grand Lake residents

GRAND LAKE STREAM PLANTATION – For most towns creating parking spaces tends to be pro forma, but in this tourist community the issue has divided residents.

There have been two special town meetings – one on Monday night – to deal with whether the town would approve a plan to create parking spaces for the lake end of Canal Street.

Proponents favored a plan to allow people who live in town and visitors to park and use the lake.

Opponents disagreed.

They called it the “partying and parking” area because of problems this summer when people parked cars along Canal Street, turned up their boom boxes and celebrated late into the night.

In July, no parking was painted on the road leading to the area, but over the Labor Day weekend someone threw green and white paint on it.

Town resident Sam Sprague, who served as moderator, held up a drawing of the proposed plan and talked at length about creating a parallel parking strip that would accommodate between eight and 10 cars, including one for people with disabilities. The proposed area would be in the middle of the dead-end road.

At issue was whether trucks could maneuver in that area to offload boats and where trucks and trailers would be parked afterward.

Several people questioned why the area had been marked no parking.

“The issue wasn’t parking, the issue was partying,” second assessor John F. Arcaro said. “It was people going down there and just abusing the area. They were down there drinking, they’re down there doing drugs, they’re down there all night. The issue was not where the boaters were going to go, the issue is this is sending a great message about Grand Lake Stream – go partying there, it’s lawless there’s no cops do whatever you want, that was the reason for no parking.”

When the town hired the Washington County Sheriff’s Department to patrol, the assessors imposed the no-parking rule to help the officers. “It wasn’t dreamt up by ourselves or thought of by ourselves,” Arcaro said. “It was asked of us ‘if you want to keep that area clean’ this is what we need to do.”

A woman who was not identified suggested they restrict the no parking to July and August. She said this summer was better because people weren’t allowed to park there. “They’d park right by the wharf there with their beer in the car and take a beer and swim and if they can’t park they have to walk for their beer they’re not going to do it. This year it was a lot better when there was no parking for them there,” the woman said. “And nobody wants to say it’s nobody in this town, it’s out of town [people].”

Resident Joanne Cannell said she favored parking because it would allow her daughter who is disabled to use the area.

Town resident Dave Tobey then made a motion to allow the assessors to move forward with creating a defined parking area that would be restricted to daytime hours. They also agreed to look into the feasibility of boat trailer parking on the canal side of the street. The motion was seconded.

After a few more minutes of discussion, the more than 30 people overwhelmingly voted to allow parking on Canal Street.

After the meeting, Kenny Sprague who lives on that street said there was a real problem with partying in the area. Last summer, he said, two young girls went to the lake to swim, but were back five minutes later. “They said they were afraid. They were crying. They didn’t dare to go swimming because there was so much commotion going on out there,” he said. He said he would agree with parking as long as it did not involve trailers. “They start hauling those big trailers up there and they fill the parking lot up and block private property it causes hard feelings,” he said.

Asked if the problems involved only visitors to the town, Sprague laughed and said, “basically, we’re not all angels.”

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