Paugus Park Road notice surprises residents who’ve used land for 50 years
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The state has sent a letter to people living along narrow Paugus Park Road notifying them that they must stop their decades-long practice of parking in a railroad right of way.
Mark Tetelman, who has owned a home there for 36 years, said that many residents depend on the gravel area near the tracks as a place to put their cars, and that they didn't appreciate getting a letter like this without any prior discussions or meetings.
“Out of the blue, we got this letter saying to stop,” he said. “We were shocked.”
Paugus Park is a dead-end road that runs between the railroad tracks and the homes, which sit on the shore of the bay. Many of the homes in the area have only a small driveway and no garage. The road, which outlets to Van Buren Road, is so narrow that emergency vehicles could be blocked by extensive street parking.
“This is a 1940s community,” Tetelman said. “Some of the homes have room for one car or no cars.”
On Monday, numerous cars could be seen parked in the right of way, a few feet from railroad tracks, which is used in the summer for a tourist train. Also in the right of way were boat trailers, lumber for some nearby residential construction projects and even a garden.
Louis Barker, railroad planner for the state's Transportation Department, said in the June 16 letter that the encroachments on the right of way were seen during a recent joint inspection with city officials planning to put a drainage ditch in the area. He also said all encroachments must be removed by July 16.
“Staff from the department and the city will be conducting inspections to ensure removal,” he said. “Additionally, upon completion of the city's drainage improvements, no use of the state-owned railroad corridor will be permitted.”
Barker said Monday that there is a process by which people can ask to use surplus state land, but such uses are not usually permitted in the gravel portion of a railroad right of way.
“That's a safety envelope, if you will,” he said. “A minimum of space must be kept along the tracks.”
Wes Anderson, Laconia's Public Works director, said the ditch needs to be built because water is backing up on Paugus Park Road and damaging the roadway. The depth of the ditch will vary depending on drainage requirements along various sections of the road.
He said water is collecting in the area because "nature and residents" have blocked drainage paths and ditches that flowed to culverts and into the bay.
"The city, to correct this problem, is taking the opportunity presented by the state's effort to eliminate encroachments into their right of way, to improve the drainage on the road. Work will begin July 17, with removal of trees and brush from the area between the road and the tracks."
Jean Ray, who has lived in the area since the 1960s, said drainage was not a problem until the city allowed construction of the Nature's View neighborhood above Paugus Park Road.
She was surprised that after all these years, the state would bring up the parking issue.
“We were told we're not supposed to park over there because we don't own it,” she said. “Of course we've been parking there for 50 years. We know it belongs to the railroad, but nobody has ever said anything.
“Some people don't even have driveways.”
She acknowledged there can be improper encroachments on the track.
“Last week, a truck was parked on the tracks,” she said. “The train had to stop and blow the horn until it was moved.”
Cars were parked in the state railroad right of way Monday along Paugus Park Road. Residents were surprised to learn recently the state does not want the area used for parking. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)
Paugus Park Road runs along the western shore of Paugus Bay. (Courtesy Google maps)