Beach parking costs rise

By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / July 1, 2010

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Enjoying the sun and surf won’t cost a penny on the sandy shores this summer, but beach parking lots are another story — just ask the regulars at Nantasket Beach.

At the popular beach in Hull, the daily parking fee has more than doubled since last summer.

But fear not, thrifty beach-goers: There are cheaper ways to park at Nantasket. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation now offers $35 parking passes that allow unlimited parking at Nantasket and other state beaches all year.

And here’s another helpful tip: Massachusetts residents age 62 and older can sign up to receive a free senior pass for year-round free parking at state beaches — even if they’re not the person driving.

The ParksPass program and the senior passes have been around for years, but are new at Nantasket, according to Wendy Fox, spokeswoman for the DCR. The programs have also been extended to Nahant Beach on the North Shore, she said.

With the increase in the daily parking fee, the full-year pass is a lot more attractive to sun worshipers who are planning frequent trips to state beaches. At Nantasket, the fee increased to $7 from $3 in August 2009, and the rate for seniors doubled, to $4.

The parking fees at Nantasket were raised to reimburse the town of Hull for emergency police and ambulance services that it provides at the beach, as well for as some maintenance costs, said Fox. (Since last August, $147,571 has been collected, she said.)

“There were some complaints/concerns in the early days or weeks of the increase last year,’’ said Fox, in an e-mail. “But since then, complaints have been rare. It appears that people who visit that beach a lot are buying a ParksPass.’’

And in case you’re wondering, the parking rates will probably hold steady for a while.

“No increases are planned or being talked about,’’ said Fox.

ParksPass tags cost $35 for Massachusetts residents and $45 for out-of-staters. A second vehicle per family can be added for $15. They’re valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31; during that time, pass holders get unlimited daytime parking at DCR parks and beaches that charge parking fees, which generally range from $2 to $7 a day.

The passes are good for parking at several summertime spots in Southeastern Massachusetts, such as Borderland State Park in Easton (where parking is $2), as well as College Pond in Myles Standish State Forest and Watson Pond in Taunton (where parking is $5). The pass also saves $7 in parking fees at seaside destinations such as Demarest Lloyd State Park in Dartmouth, Horseneck Beach in Westport, South Cape Beach in Mashpee, and Scusset Beach in Sandwich.

ParksPasses are available for purchase at state parks and beaches, and can be requested by calling 617-626-4969 (credit cards, but not debit cards, are accepted) or by sending a check to: Massachusetts ParksPass Program, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of State Parks, 251 Causeway St., Suite 900, Boston MA 02114.

Be sure to include the vehicle’s license-plate number and specify whether it’s a resident or nonresident ParksPass, or a “second car’’ sticker.

Senior passes are available at all state parks and beaches that charge a parking fee.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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