EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 28, 2013

N.H. State Park plates aren't selling well

Anyone who hasn’t seen a New Hampshire State Park license plate isn’t alone. There are fewer than 1,200 of them statewide.

The state’s conservation — moose — plate has proven quite popular, with nearly 45,000 vehicles sporting them. But the state parks plate is not enjoying the same results.

The plates have been available for purchase since May 2, 2011, but year to date for fiscal year 2013, just 1,193 plates are on the road.

That’s a disappointing number for state officials, who saw the plate as a new revenue source for the self-funded state parks system.

House Bill 1620 established the special license plate in 2010 and the plates became available a year later.

For $85, plus a first-time new plate fee of $8, a car owner gets free admission to any of the state’s day-use parks, including the popular beach parks in Hampton and at Wallis Sands. The plate covers admission for passengers, too.

“It’s a great deal, but there’s an upfront hit,” said Amy Bassett, state parks department spokeswoman.

But anyone who regularly visits New Hampshire state parks would soon recoup that $85 investment, she said.

Beach parking alone is $15 a day and day admission is $4 or $5 for adults, $2 for children, she pointed out. It wouldn’t take too many family trips to Hampton Beach or any other day park for residents to start realizing savings, she said.

But the plates haven’t sold well.

State officials hope to change that, Bassett said, and will launch a new marketing strategy.

“When we first started, we targeted town clerks,” she said. “We went to regional meetings, talked about the plates.”

Since many people register their vehicles at their local town clerk’s office, that made sense, she said.

But a few clerks interviewed said the upfront cost puts a lot of people off.

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