The graded road that starts at the entrance to our campground and ends at the Crystal Lake Trailhead parking lot is less than two tenths of a mile long. On the east side there are five “No Parking” signs. On the west side there are four. I think the Forest Service is quite clear on the fact that they don’t want anyone parking along that short stretch of road.
Wikipedia’s entry on “herd mentality” (also known as crowd mentality or mob mentality) reads, “describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items.” The term often has a negative connotation, and the case of the Crystal Lake Trailhead is no exception. On busy weekends, when there is absolutely positively no parking to be had at the main trailhead, eventually one car will park illegally. Maybe just in front of the “No Parking” sign. Then another will park just behind it. And another. And another. And the fact that they are parking directly in front of one of the nine “No Parking” signs just doesn’t seem to matter. It takes only one car to start the whole mess.
Every weekend the Forest Service has a heyday writing tickets to these people who are very blatantly parking illegally. It’s not a cheap ticket. The fine is $125. So why do people do it? I guess when crowd mentality kicks in, common sense gets kicked out. Sometimes we see a car parked directly behind a car that has a ticket. What are they thinking? Apparently they’re not thinking.
If we actually catch someone parking on the road, we let them know. “I know it’s none of my business, but the fine for parking here is $125 and the Forest Service will be here today.” Usually they move. We got a laugh out of one young man that we had advised of the fine only seconds before the Forest Service arrived. He pulled out in front of them and made a quick escape.
When we first arrived in camp, we had a few cars sneak into the campground and park along the road. This is a bad thing. We have to be able to get large trailers in and out, and we have to be able to get emergency vehicles in and out. While the Forest Service has expressly told us that cars cannot be parked along the road, they won’t ticket in the campground. It’s our job to enforce that parking regulation – and all we can do is charge a fee. So we’ve had to do all we can to keep that one car out.
The number one thing we’ve done is to take away the visual temptation. There are orange cones on the road leading into our campground, and we insist that our campers park all their vehicles in their camp spots. Nobody parks on the road – not even our campers. We also just happen to be out in front of our trailer on busy weekends. If our cones don’t deter the would-be illegal parker, our presence often does. And if they stop to ask, we’ll gladly direct them to the overflow parking. We’ll even give them a trail map.
So when you come to the trailhead, remember that “but Mom – everybody’s doing it” just doesn’t fly. There’s lots of parking at the overflow area.