As we move into the summer tourism season, it pays to have a helpful reminder to watch where you park — and to read the signs.
Last week, the Commonwealth Journal received a phone call from an individual upset because of an incident at Lee’s Ford Marina, where he parked his trailer in the lower lot and came back to find a boot on his vehicle, preventing him from leaving unless he paid to have it removed. The police were called. So was an attorney.
So in doing due diligence, the Commonwealth Journal put in a call or two to see what the situation was at Lee’s Ford, located in western Pulaski County near Nancy. Lee’s Ford owner J.D. Hamilton was somewhat surprised to receive the call, seeing that the matter, in his mind was pretty simple.
“You can’t park trailers in the parking lot when the sign says ‘no trailers,’” said Hamilton. “Trailers have to park at the top of the hill. It’s been that way since I bought (the property).”
That was in 2003, and since then, Hamilton has guided the marina and resort area, complete with store, cottages, and restaurant, to become one of the area’s premier summer destinations.
Of course, unlike other areas like Pulaski County Park, which is owned by the county government, Lee’s Ford is privately owned and operated. Which means, they can impose virtually any restrictions on their parking lot they choose. That includes fees for using it — $10 on regular weekends, possibly more on holidays.
“There are 65 places to launch a boat on Lake Cumberland,” said Hamilton. “At Pulaski County (Park), there are parking lots with no charge. But we have to control our parking lot. Our slip customers pay a lot of money, they don’t want to come down and not have a parking space available.”
He added, “In the off-season, we don’t enforce (parking fees and restrictions). Once the season starts (around the beginning of April), we do enforce it, and we put up signs. ... The (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) at some point in time used to maintain these parking lots, and without asking us, said we had to maintain the parking lots. It costs me more money and labor to collect (fees) that what we make on it. The only reason we do it is to control the parking lot so it doesn’t become a mess. If we don’t manage it, everyone parks crossways and everything else. You take a parking lot that holds 300 cars and you get 100 cars in there.”
Indeed, said Hamilton, people will park so that others can’t get out. Trailers take up multiple spaces, leaving less availability for other cars, which is “extremely selfish,” according to Hamilton.
“We only really (enforce parking) Thursday through Sunday. We don’t do it in the middle of the week, unless it’s like the middle of July,” said Hamilton. “It’s really a whole thing to manage the parking.”
Hamilton noted that someone who would park a trailer in the lower lot would be someone who “drove right by two signs” that should have informed them that they couldn’t park there.
“The only reason we started booting them is, there’s a charge of $200 to get the boot off,” said Hamilton. “If we tow them like we have the signage (saying will happen), then the tow company takes (the vehicle) to their lot and (the offender) comes back for their vehicle, now they have to take transportation to get to the tow lot. So that costs more than $200. That’s why we went to the boot system.”
For those who park as the signs indicate they should, this Memorial Day weekend could be a fun one on Lake Cumberland. Lake traffic is expected to be busy, and that means good business for marinas like Lee’s Ford — Hamilton said he’s had to hire two extra people just to answer the phones.
“The last four weeks, people have realized that they can’t go to amusement parks (because of COVID-19 precautions), they can’t go to the pool, many people are scared to get on a plane,” said Hamilton. “There are so many things they can’t do that are safe and fun. Boating is one thing that is. ... It could be one of the best years we’ve ever had one the lake.”