Liberty parking ban: So far, so good?

Season's end could bring some "tweaks"
By Fran Gonzalez | Sep 01, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez A picture-perfect Thursday afternoon at Marshall Shores. On the left is Marshall Shore Road with "no parking" painted on the right side of roadway. Two vehicles were parked this day without parking stickers.

Liberty — The three-month-old parking restriction at Marshall Shores has been a thorny issue with abutting towns and longtime parkgoers who are not residents or taxpayers.

The popular swimming hole at the southern end of Lake St. George was bursting at the seams with bathers, cars and trash prior to this year's parking ban.

Driven by safety issues, Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds submitted an article at the annual town meeting in the spring dealing specifically with the parking situation.

In the winter, when people park on the road, the roads cannot be plowed, Reynolds said previously, and in summer, kids sometimes dash through parked cars along the road. She said the area is an accident waiting to happen.

The ban limits parking to town residents or taxpayers, in one of the 18 legal parking spots. Also, parking is not allowed on the winding road adjacent to the lake.

Parking stickers, available from the town clerk, need to be displayed on the upper left-hand side of the windshield in order to park legally. All other cars parked illegally can be ticketed by newly hired parking attendants.

The first offense is a warning and second offense results in a $50 fine. The penalties increase and with four offenses, a $150 ticket will be issued and the vehicle will be towed.

Other lakes nearby, including Stevens Pond, which boasts plenty of free parking and a swimming raft, and Freedom Pond (Sandy Pond) also with a large free parking area and a newly designated swim area near the boat launch, historically have not been as popular with area residents.

According to "A Brief History of the Town of Liberty" written in 1927, Marshalls Shore was named for James Marshall, who traveled from Ohio to settle there. He was so enamored with this corner of the lake he called it “the most beautiful spot in one-half of America.”

Decades later, the land known as "Marshall Shore Property," was given to the town by Donald S. Walker in 1958. The deed notes, "premises shall be used for a public picnic ground or some other appropriate public use."

Town Administrator Kenn Ortmann said the majority of feedback he received initially was from people from other towns expressing anger, frustration and disappointment about being excluded.

The Town Office recently has also received several emails from appreciative residents thanking the town, he said.

"This has been the first summer in many many years where I can go and not have an issue with parking," one email reads. "Also, I've seen more locals that I know and have met many I didn't know, so it's also a great way to connect with others in town.

"I really want to give two thumbs up to the people that are patrolling and cleaning the shore ...."

Ortmann said a side benefit to the parking ban is something he did not count on. The environmental improvements of the trees and plants have been a bonus with diminished foot traffic.

Reynolds agreed with Ortmann's assessment, and said the grass is growing like never before. She attributed the changes to lower impact by fewer people and she noted small trees are sprouting as well.

"It has gone better than expected," she said. "I think the ban is working perfectly."

She said she does not foresee any changes to the ordinance.

Two paid parking attendants, along with volunteers, divide the responsibilities of patrolling the area at peak times such as on hot summer days and weekends. On Saturday, July 20, Reynolds said, it was 96 degrees and there were plenty of Liberty residents.

"On that day I turned away 37 carloads of people from all around," she said.

Reynolds directed people to nearby Lake St. George State Park where admission is $5 for Maine residents, $7 for nonresidents and $2 for senior nonresidents; she also recommended a lot around the corner, where some young entrepreneurs had set up shop, allowing people to park for $5 a carload, for the day.

However, not everyone is as happy about the parking ban as Reynolds.

Liz Pfleger is from Michigan and calls Marshall Shores her "happy place."

She has been coming to Marshall Shores for the past 30 years when visiting her brother in Palermo.

This summer, she and her two daughters — one who drove from Washington, D.C., and the other who drove from Ohio — were disappointed to discover they could not visit the place they love.

"It is really just sad," she said. "... to not be able to visit a place that meant so much to me and my family ... I am so sorry that I will never be able to swim and enjoy the peace that it gave my heart again."

She and her family went to the state park but said "it wasn't the same."

Pfleger said she understands why the town has decided to implement the ban, remembering a visit two years ago on the Fourth of July when "it was a zoo."

"There were tents and garbage, which we picked up on the way out," she said. "There were cars parked on lawns and it was a mess."

Pfleger said her brother and his wife have also been coming to Marshall Shores for 30 years. His neighbor has been doing the same for 50 years.

"It is a tradition for our family and one we were sad to give up and more than willing to pay to do," she said.

Reynolds said, "People often misunderstand, anyone can go to Marshall Shores, they just can't park there without a sticker. I have seen many Liberty people generously give their sticker to nonresidents to park, and that is allowed. It's all about the sticker, not who's in the vehicle."

Reynolds said so far this summer, no cars have been towed, no fines have been levied and about 90 warnings have been issued.

At the end of the season, Ortmann said, the parking ban will be revisited, and all parties involved will  brainstorm and possibly "tweak" the ordinance.

Ortmann would like to explore ways of "staggering" use of the park which he said, "has a lot of demand on certain times."

"The key is to make it simple and workable," he said.

Some thoughts being put forward include increasing attendant hours and instituting a pay-to-park system for nonresidents at off-peak times (if parking is available).


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