Hadley to prohibit parking on North Street near popular dike

People walk along the Connecticut River dike in Hadley while the parking lot is full at Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area last Thursday afternoon.

People walk along the Connecticut River dike in Hadley while the parking lot is full at Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area last Thursday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

People walk along the Connecticut River dike in Hadley while the parking lot is full at the Alexandra Dawson Conservation area last Thursday afternoon.

People walk along the Connecticut River dike in Hadley while the parking lot is full at the Alexandra Dawson Conservation area last Thursday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 11-22-2023 6:00 PM

HADLEY — Parking will be prohibited along North Lane near the Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area, a place from which many people embark on walks along the Connecticut River dike, as concerns grow about parked vehicles impacting the condition of nearby trees and causing traffic congestion on the road.

While the Select Board unanimously approved restrictions on Nov. 15 sought by Department of Public Works Superintendent Scott McCarthy and Police Lt. Mitchell Kuc, members began considering additional steps that could be taken, including limiting the access at the parking lot to Hadley residents by using a permit system already in place at the Bay Road reservoirs, or even prohibiting recreational use of the protective levee.

“We’re starting to have a lot of erosion of the earth there from people trying to park off the road,” McCarthy said.

The vehicles are also causing compaction of the soil and are detrimental to the tree canopy through the compression of roots, he said. “It’s getting pretty bad there,” McCarthy said.

In 2019, the town built the new gravel parking lot on North Lane, a few hundred yards to the east of an informal lot closer to the bend where North Lane turns into West Street. That area was then reseeded and large boulders were put in place to prevent vehicles from parking there.

Select Board member Molly Keegan said it’s understandable that people park along the road, as parking spaces are at a premium at peak times. “It’s really popular,” Keegan said.

“Many people are there to view the sunsets, because they are really beautiful there,” Keegan said.

“We have a build-it-they-will-come situation here,” said Select Board member Randy Izer, who asked if expanding the lot was feasible.

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McCarthy said the town’s Conservation Commission only allowed the parking area to be a certain size due to its proximity to the river and other wetlands.

Select Board member Joyce Chunglo said she has questions about stability of the dike.

McCarthy said grass is no longer growing on top of the dike. “It’s worn right down to the dirt — there’s no more grass,” McCarthy said.

A consultant providing town officials advice on the future of the dike has noted issues with its condition due to the extensive public use, with the lack of grass on top and trash and other debris found along it, including in the river, such as bags filled with dog waste.

Efforts to plant grass have not worked. “The foot traffic there is crazy,” McCarthy said.

For initial enforcement, Kuc said the town will partner with Ernie’s Towing to tow vehicles, as it does at the Bay Road reservoirs and on West Street near Esselon Cafe.

Initially, Kuc said there will be education about the new parking rules.

Both Kuc and McCarthy said they understand the likely result will be more people parking on the town common.

But McCarthy said the town common parking is preferable. “For me, it would be better, at least we’d be preserving the trees,” McCarthy said.

As to the future, further suggestions include that those who want to use the dike to be directed to park off Cemetery Road near the transfer station, accessing the dike at a point farther to the west.

“Many people will be disappointed, but I think protecting the area is the most important thing,” Keegan

Chunglo said the priority should be protecting the dike, which is better “than to have the center of town flooded for some unknown reason.”

Izer said he, too, could support a parking pass system for the parking lot.

“It’s going to be a very interesting change for a lot of people who are used to using it,” Izer said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.