By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — A trip to the beach this summer will be more costly due to higher parking fees.
Under the plan approved by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee Friday, the fees will increase $1 an hour during peak usage months and Rye Harbor State Park will have new metered parking this summer as well.
The change will bring the cost to $3 an hour at Hampton Main Beach, North Beach, Jenness Beach, North Hampton Beach and at Rye Harbor State Park between May 1 and Sept. 20.
During the months of April and October the cost will be $1 an hour at the facilities, which will have no fees from November through March.
A subdivision of the State Park System Advisory Council recommended the changes after studying the situation along the Seacoast, according to Sarah Stewart, Department of Cultural and Natural Resources Commissioner.
“The SPAC subcommittee found that private parking lots located on the Seacoast charge $10 a day weekdays, $25-$30 a day weekends, and up to $80 a day on extremely busy days,” she told the committee. “Comparatively, the state park metered lots will cost $24 for 8 hours (at $3/hr.) and provide prime parking locations directly in front of the beach.”
And she said visitors are willing to accept parking tickets because the cost of parking is still below the private lots for the prime spaces.
A familiar problem of workforce shortages necessitated adding the parking meters at Rye Harbor as it has been difficult to find staff for the toll booth, she said.
And Stewart said the parks division has also expanded seasonal operations as people visit earlier and later than in the past.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on outdoor recreation visitation, and not only did NH State Parks remain open, but also had to increase services across the system to manage the increased demand,” Stewart told committee members. “This included additional staffing, the need to pay higher wages, and increased costs associated with providing added maintenance and contracting services.”
She said the $1 increase in parking fees is expected to generate an additional $1.1 million for the parks system.
The system is largely self-funding and the parking meters at the beaches generate enough money to support other park operations.
Of the money collected at the beaches, $200,000 is transferred for capital improvement, for equipment purchases and work at Hampton Beach facilities.
The Fiscal Committee also approved two items that will help expand high-speed broadband in the state.
One would use $525,033 of federal funds to develop an equity plan for distributing broadband services and to help those who may not be familiar with high-speed services to take advantages of its capabilities such as tele-healthcare appointments or financial management.
Another request the committee approved was $2 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 to hire a contractor to write the state’s required broadband five-year plan.
Once that is done, said Taylor Caswell, Department of Business and Economic Affairs, the state will be able to access about $100 million in federal funds for new high-speed broadband throughout the state.
Current broadband contracts are expected to connect about 50,000 new customers to high-speed internet this summer.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.