Raleigh, N.C. — Runner Gary Baum used to park his car on a gravel path to enter Umstead State Park through a maintenance road. Department of officials say people weren't supposed to park there anyway, and they're shutting it down.
Umstead State Park now opens an hour earlier every day to accommodate people who previously used the road to get into the park, but they have to get used to going a different way.
The Department of Transportation has put up no-parking signs on both sides of Graylyn Drive off Ebeneezer Church Road.
“Coming in and finding ... the no-parking sign was really just a shock,” Baum said.
DOT officials said they plan to pave the road, but not for runners to park around.
“In order to do the construction, we had to put up the no-parking signs to give the contractor room to work in that area with his equipment,” said DOT Division Engineer Wally Bowman.
Crews also plan to do seeding and drainage improvements. When that's done, DOT officials still plan to make the no-parking permanent, however. They and park officials have gotten complaints from residents who live nearby.
“Usually during the week, there could be about between 10 to 20 cars parked here, just on an average nice day. On the weekends, the most we counted at one time is 54,” said Umstead Superintendent Scott Letchworth.
Park officials said they want trail users to drive inside the park and use designated parking areas. It’s an extra 10 minutes from Graylyn Drive to go to the park’s main entrance off Highway 70 and drive in 3 miles.
The gravel road at Graylyn Drive never was an official park entrance.
“That is not a public parking area. That is a state-maintained road,” Bowman said.
It might be a hard habit to break for some park users, but it’s one they’ll have to get used to in the long run.
Letchworth said he plans to meet with city and county leaders to discuss ways to improve existing parking areas.