DUBLIN — The state’s Public Water Access Advisory Board has warned town officials that their proposal to limit parking near Dublin Lake would improperly restrict access to the water.
In a May 12 letter, advisory board Chairman Thomas Quarles Jr. said the selectboard’s plan to ban parking on the shoreline shoulder of Lake Road, which encircles most of the lake, would violate a deed requiring it to be publicly accessible.
Dublin’s selectboard presented that plan at a public hearing held virtually April 19. Selectboard Chairman Chris Raymond has said the parking restrictions are needed to ensure safe passage along Lake Road for emergency vehicles and other drivers, as well as to protect pedestrians.
In his letter, however, Quarles told Raymond that the restrictions would reduce water access at a boat launch on the west side of the lake, which is open to swimming and other public recreation, where parking is already limited. Quarles said the plan would also effectively end access to Brown’s Cove, a popular swimming spot on the lake’s southern edge, because parking in that area is already prohibited on the other side of Lake Road.
The advisory board — a 20-member panel that monitors public water access issues statewide and advises the N.H. Fish and Game Department — has requested that Dublin officials allow parking on both sides of the road near the boat launch, which Quarles said is required by the deed for that site. The board has also requested that they allow parking on at least one shoulder near Brown’s Cove.
The advisory board has no authority to enforce its requests, however, according to Quarles.
Raymond could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dublin officials received the advisory board’s letter Monday, according to Town Administrator Kate Fuller. Selectboard members are scheduled to discuss its contents at their May 24 meeting and expect to receive guidance from town attorney Matt Serge before then, Fuller said.
At the board’s April 19 hearing, Raymond said the town has heard concerns from public safety officials that vehicles parked on the lakeside roads could block emergency responders from getting to a fire in the area or a health crisis on Mount Monadnock, which is nearby.
Local residents have also complained that an influx of people hiking the mountain’s Pumpelly Trail — which has its trailhead on Lake Road — during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused even more vehicle traffic, according to Raymond.
Public feedback at the hearing was largely positive, with some residents encouraging the selectboard to enact even stricter parking regulations than it proposed. The restrictions would also help prevent erosion into the lake, Dublin Lake Preservation Committee co-chair June Brening told the board.
However, the Public Water Access Advisory Board says the selectboard proposal would violate Dublin’s deed on the area near the boat launch, which Quarles called an “obvious failing” of the plan in his letter. That land was a private gift to the town in 1961, and the deed states that boat owners should be able to park along nearby stretches of Lake Road and Mauran Lane, which is directly opposite the launch, he said Monday.
In his letter, Quarles said the selectboard’s proposal to ban shoreline parking would further limit public use of the boat launch, since parking is already prohibited in a fire lane on Lake Road as well as on a portion of Mauran Lane.
The advisory board has requested that Dublin officials drop their plan to restrict shoreline parking around the launch and remove all of the existing parking regulations that it says also violate the town’s deed for that site, he told Raymond.
“Having a public access water site with no parking allowed is kind of defeating the purpose,” Quarles told The Sentinel on Monday. “… We’re simply asking them to comply with the deed.”
In his letter, he called Brown’s Cove “an important historic access site for the general public,” including Pumpelly Trail hikers, to use Dublin Lake and requested that officials allow parking on at least one side of Lake Road near the cove.
Dublin’s road agent, Roger Trempe, confirmed Monday that the town prohibits parking on some stretches of Lake Road near that cove but said those rules are meant only to ensure that residents can access their driveways.
This is the third time since 2013 that the advisory board has been asked to help preserve public access to Dublin Lake, Quarles told Raymond in his letter.
That year, town officials attempted to prohibit swimming near the boat launch, which Quarles said would have violated a condition in the town’s deed for that site requiring public water access for all activities. He also said a resident near Brown’s Cove posted “No Trespassing” signs along a public right of way near the cove last spring, before Dublin ordered the removal of those signs to allow lake access.