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As traffic keeps piling up at Diana's Baths, Conway officials are asking the state for help

 A row of cars lines up on the road outside of Diana's Baths.
Jamie Gemmitti
/
Conway Daily Sun File Photo via Granite State News Collaborative
Conway Police Chief Chris Mattei at the July 18 Conway Selectmen's meeting said he hopes the State of New Hampshire will allow for a paved queue line next to Diana's Baths so that drivers seeking to enter the baths don't have to wait in the road.

This story was originally produced by the Conway Daily Sun. NHPR is republishing it in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative.

Overwhelming traffic at Diana’s Baths continues to cause safety problems, Conway Police Chief Chris Mattei recently told selectmen.

Diana’s Baths is a recreational site with a series of pools and cascades managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The trailhead is off of West Side Road roughly 2½ miles from North Conway Village.

Mattei said that as of July 18 there had been 12 calls for service over the past dozen days. “We started experiencing as of the Fourth some serious complaints, once again at Diana’s Baths,” said Mattei.

“As far as the traffic that’s backing up there, I do believe it’s a safety concern,” the chief added.

Mattei — who was sitting next to Jim Innes, U.S. Forest Service Saco District ranger, as he spoke — said his vehicle almost got rear-ended recently.

One issue is that northbound traffic waiting to get into the parking lot sometimes has to queue in the road for extended periods, sometimes for as long as 20 minutes.

“I sat there for a minute. I timed it and then I saw vehicles coming up behind me at high rates of speed because it’s a sweeping corner,” said Mattei, adding he activated the siren and lights on his patrol car.

Casey McDermott
/
NHPR

However, the town doesn’t have enough traffic control staff to help mitigate this issue.

Mattei said he noticed that cars, both northbound and southbound, trying to get into Diana’s Baths clog the roadway and suggested that selectmen ask the state if a paved queue lane could be created on the shoulder of the road in the southbound lane, which is on the Baths’ side of the road.

The town would have to ask the state because it’s in the state’s right of way. But the queue line might be on Forest Service property, said Innes, depending on where the right of way ends and Forest Service land begins.

“If we created that long enough, we might be able to get 15-20 cars queued up on the right side of the roadway,” said Mattei, adding that this still wouldn’t address the problem of northbound traffic backing up.

Following Mattei’s recommendation, selectmen voted 5-0 to send a letter to New Hampshire Department of Transportation asking for permission to have a paved queue line.

Mattei said the “No Parking” signs designed to keep people off of private property have added to the traffic issue.

“All we’ve done is pushed everybody into the roadway now, inadvertently,” said Mattei. “There is really no other way, I believe, to get around it but to create more space for those vehicles to queue up.”

Innes said he lives on West Side Road and agreed with what Mattei said. “We took an issue that was on the side of the road and put it in the middle of the road,” said Innes, who was supportive of the queue line.

He added that the partnership between the town and Forest Service to manage Diana’s Baths has been positive. The town has workers who control the traffic.

Town Manager John Eastman said the queue lane would help but maybe the Forest Service should have Diana’s Baths be reservation only. Eastman agreed the town has a good relationship with the Forest Service.

“I think the big thing is that our partnership is really good. So this this meeting today isn’t adversarial at all,” said Eastman.

“It’s more or less just to have the discussion.”

Eastman says the town has budgeted to cover the Baths with parking enforcement employees on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the town hasn’t been able to fill all the shifts.

“One of our longstanding employees got verbally abused just a couple of weeks ago,” said Eastman, adding that some employees won’t work there. “We’re struggling to find anyone to work.”

Eastman said the town tries to have two people work there at a time.

“I believe Diana’s Baths is overrun,” said Eastman. “It’s on TripAdvisor, which I wish it wasn’t.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visitcollaborativenh.org.

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