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May 23, 2013

Letter: Audubon needs to hike Eastern Point park fees

To the editor:

The parking lot at the end of Eastern Point attracts many visitors who come to fish, bird, or enjoy the view of the harbor and Coast Guard Light.

The lot, along with the surrounding marsh, woodland, and rocky shore is privately owned by Mass Audubon and primarily managed as one of our wildlife sanctuaries.

On a number of days in the summer, however, there may be more people wishing to visit than the lot can accommodate. In past years, four-wheel-drive vehicles have driven up on the beach and grass, causing damage to the surrounding coastal habitat.

Additionally, Mass Audubon has received complaints of nighttime partying in the parking lot, requiring that additional, limited staff resources be devoted to management and litter cleanup.

Since 1998, Mass Audubon has worked with the Association of Eastern Point Residents and the city of Gloucester agencies to address these problems. Barriers were erected to keep vehicles off sensitive habitat areas, a gate was installed so the lot could be locked at night, and a marsh cleanup occurs each spring to clear the area of traps, buoys, and other winter debris.

This maintenance and management of the parking area, however, comes at a cost. This includes opening and locking the gate each day for three months in the summer, while also providing staff coverage for approximately 46 days. A portable toilet is also provided. Add it all up, and our expenses are more than we can assume without assistance from visitors who directly benefit from the use of the lot.

Therefore, beginning this Saturday, we will increase our daily parking fee from $5 to $10 for visitors to the Eastern Point parking area to help offset our mounting expenses. Fees will be in effect through Columbus Day, Oct. 14.

For current Mass Audubon members, there is no fee. Visitors may use the envelopes in the kiosk and on-site staff will be available weekends to assist with parking cars and collection of the fee.

We ask for your understanding as we continue to provide management and accessibility to this coastal treasure.

GARY CLAYTON

Vice President for Conservation Programs

Mass Audubon

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