SCARBOROUGH — Despite new parking restrictions enacted last winter, Higgins Beach is in some ways more accessible than ever.
Last month, the town installed webcam for live, streaming video atop The Breakers Inn on Bayview Avenue. The idea is that officials and the public will be able to monitor the parking and pedestrian safety situation at Higgins Beach in real time.
The stream offers a view of part of the beach and the intersection of Ocean and Bayview Avenues, including the new one-hour parking spots along the shore.
In January, the Town Council approved changes to parking rules in the Higgins Beach area, creating the 15 one-hour spots on Bayview Avenue and banning parking along other streets. Visitors now have the choice of jockeying for one of the free, time-limited spots or paying $5 to park in the municipal parking lot two blocks form the beach.
Roger Chabot, president of the Higgins Beach Association, said the webcam was installed to make it easier to review the new parking rules.
“The population of this area increases dramatically in the spring, summer and fall, and many of our visitors have been coming here for vacations for 10, 20, 30 years,” Chabot said in an email. “The camera will be able to document the safety and congestion issues which occur along Bayview Avenue and which we observe on a daily basis.”
The webcam cost $6,000 and all recurring costs, such as power and maintenance, will be covered by the HBA.
During the lead-up to the rules change, some Higgins Beach residents accused councilors and town staff of not having enough first-hand knowledge of the parking and pedestrian safety issues in the neighborhood.
Town Manager Tom Hall said he camera is partly intended to address that concern. With the camera in place, he said, everyone will always be able to check in on Higgins Beach.
“It gives you a quick sense of the traffic, the flow of pedestrians and how they’re working together,” Hall said, adding that the information will come in handy when the town assesses the new parking rules next year.
The video stream is also recorded and saved for about two weeks, according to Police Chief Robbie Coulton. He said that while the webcam will not be used to enforce the parking ordinance, the recording may be reviewed in the event of a crime investigation.
“We’re not going to be giving tickets based on what we see on the camera, but it may be an investigative tool,” he said. “It’s possible that if a crime happened at the beach, vandalism or something like that, we could review the tapes.”
Between Memorial Day and July 12, the Scarborough Police Department issued 118 parking tickets in the entire Higgins Beach area. Only one citation has been issued for a vehicle parked after hours in the new municipal parking lot.
This July 4 screen capture from the new Higgins Beach webcam‘s live stream shows the intersection of Bayview and Ocean avenues in Scarborough.
Two people play street hockey in this screen capture from the Higgins Beach webcam, showing the intersection of Ocean and Bayview avenues around noon on July 13. At left is a Scarborough Police Department’s beach patrol vehicle.