By MIKE IACUESSA
HARWICH - As a first attempt to solve growing parking problems at Saquatucket Harbor, selectmen agreed Monday night to petition the state to lower the speed limit on Route 28 and re-evaluate the location of crosswalks. Precipitating the change was the planning board's rejection of a proposal by Freedom Cruise Line operator Alan McMullen to solve the parking shortage at the harbor by building a parking lot adjacent to one he has now. The planning board rejected the proposed lot because McMullen's customers would have to cross Route 28 to buy their tickets to the ferry. Although Freedom Line customers already must cross the road, planning board member Robert Widegren reported that some members of his committee did not want to be responsible for approving the routine because of the fear that a young child could be hit by a car. One study presented to the planning board counted 2,500 cars passing per hour. The speed limit along that section of Route 28 is 40 miles per hour. "That is too fast," said Widegren. "I believe that speed limit was established before the development at the harbor."
In addition to the Freedom Line, which is in its fourth year of ferrying people to Nantucket, the harbor is home to two other growing businesses, Thompson's Farm Market and Brax Landing Restaurant.
The shortage of parking spaces has created an overflow into the lot designated for those using the harbor for their boats and for the public ramp, according to Harbormaster Tom Leach. "My marina customers are coming into the harbor master's office and are complaining," Leach said. "Harwich has a waiting list for boat slips and moorings that is over 800. We have to respect that these people need that boat ramp area." On weekends, Leach added, people at times have been unable to get to their boats that are docked there.
Other suggestions coming before the board included using stickers for parking and allowing Thompson's to use parking in the back, which would create another entrance. While both selectmen and Leach approve of McMullen's plan, they remained uncertain if the changes to alleviate traffic dangers will save it. McMullen cannot bring his plan back before the planning board unless significant changes are made in it. His last resort may be to go before the board of appeals.