New Hampshire

Parking at Historic Maine Lighthouse Will Now Cost Visitors

For the first time ever Monday, visitors who arrived at Maine's Portland Head Light this Monday expecting to pay for parking.

The town of Cape Elizabeth has installed parking kiosks that will be used to charge anyone from out-of-town $2 an hour for almost all lots at Fort Williams Park, where Maine's oldest and most photographed lighthouse is situated.

The idea is to defer some of roughly $500,000 in annual maintenance costs that go towards keeping up the park, which attracts around 1,000,000 visitors each year.

For people who were used to parking for free, the town's decision came as a surprise.

"I was shocked," said Jody Gallant, a regular visitor from New Hampshire. "I couldn't believe that they're charging."

Signs alerting visitors about that the charge is in effect have been placed throughout Fort Williams including a large highway display at the park gate.

But by 2:30 p.m. Monday, the kiosks still weren't active. Confused visitors went up to them and attempted to pay for parking, but were unsuccessful.

"A big sign taped to the front would be great," remarked John Taylor, a first-time visitor from the U.K. who said paid parking is an expectation back home.

The uncertainty made Alex Ivchenko, a visitor from New Jersey, a little nervous and "disappointed" the attraction would no longer be free.

"I never know how much to pay, how long I'm going to be here or if I'm overpaying," he said.

Most visitors conceded they would be willing to pay the hourly rate for what they consider a valuable view and experience, especially if, as some noted, you "brought a picnic" or "went on a hike."

Officials at the park said they expect the parking system to be fully function on Tuesday.

Cape Elizabeth will also offer day passes that are $10 each, as well as $15 seasonal passes.

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