In Epsom, on-street parking will be reduced near the town forest 

Monitor staff
Published: 4/7/2021 4:56:36 PM

For years, nature lovers had pushed the parking capacity on Tarlton Road in Epsom to its limit, leaving the narrow street that leads into the Town Forest crowded but clear enough for traffic to pass.

COVID, however, changed that, continuing its profound effect on nearly every nook and cranny of society.

This time, with the outdoors providing the perfect blend of safety and activity, hikers and others have flocked to the 700 acres of the Epsom Town Forest like few can recall, forcing officials this winter to ban parking on a 200-foot section of Tarlton and Mountain roads so emergency vehicles could squeeze through.

Even one car parked on the road in years past made life more difficult for rescue personnel tying to bring in their vehicles and equipment to the few houses in that area.

“It was not pointed out to us in years past that this was a hazard,” Select Board member Hugh Curley said in an interview. “It rose to the level of a hazard. There has been more use of the Town Forest because of COVID.”

Curley continued: “Maybe people are doing more activities outside. The forest was used more this winter than in years past, and that’s what raised the level of concern.”

The no-parking zone begins at 76 Mountain Road, near the Getaway camp, and moves south to Tarlton Road, which leads directly into the Town Forest.

The ban had received a unanimous vote of approval from the Select Board in January and was announced as an official part of the town’s traffic laws three weeks later.

Then last week – aware that this local gem was attracting a lot of people and therefore more parking was needed – two members of the Conservation Commission met with Cheryl Gilpatrick, the vice chair of the Select Board and liaison for the Conservation Committee.

Both the town road agent and town forester attended the meeting as well, and all agreed that an on-site review was necessary before the existing parking lot, which has 10 spaces, could add five more.

“This has been an issue on and off for a few years,” Gilpatrick said. “People were blocking driveways and turning into driveways to turn around. Then we got more crowded with COVID and it became an emergency access problem, and it gets worse when winter hits every year. ”

Due to COVID, leaders from all areas of life, and the general public as well, have had to add creativity and adaptation to their mindsets and plans.

In this case, the overflow of cars lined up near the Town Forest sparked renewed talk about a major renovation. In addition, Getaway Blake Brook campground has already opened five of its parking spots for Town Forest traffic.

“We’ve never had this many people who wanted to utilize these trails,” said Virginia Drew, chairwoman of the Select Board. “The Epsom Town Forest might not have been too well known before, but it seems to be now, and there are people who are coming from out of town.”

Epsom Police Chief Wayne Preve referred questions to the Select Board, and Epsom Fire Chief Stewart Yeaton was unavailable for comment. But town officials said both were on board quickly after examining how parking affected traffic flow on the narrow stretch of Tarlton.

Curley mentioned the irony involved, saying, “People are using it a lot, and that actually creates a problem. With the town having a good resource, now it looks to create more parking during the season in the parking lot itself.”

The road to more space is expected to be an arduous process. The Town Forester must first create a map for the newly-purchased, 190-acre Barton Property, which is now part of the forest.

Gilpatrick mentioned the importance of this expansion, and said the two roads involved are both Class VI, meaning the town is not responsible to plow them. That’s the residents’ role.

Said Gilpatrick, “They are hoping that with the additional help from some volunteers, they cannot only make the parking area better, but also improve the Class VI portion of the road. This will be quite an undertaking, but a goal we think is ultimately obtainable.”




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