Chickadees whistle from trees. A family of ducks waddles in and out of the pond near the parking lot. The lot, across the road from Fluke Corp. in the 6900 block of Seaway Boulevard, is chock full of cars.
Joan Douglas eases her vehicle into a spot near a closed gate. Hair pulled in a pony tail and running shoes strapped on her feet, Douglas often meets a friend, Debbie Schols, for a morning walk. Schols frequently returns with her husband in the evenings.
Both Schols and Douglas consider the wetland a year-round beauty and a well-kept secret -- a seeming contradiction given the busy parking lot.
"It's almost impossible sometimes to find a spot," Douglas said.
More than a year ago, the two women noticed more and more cars in the lot.
"We thought we'd see lots of people on the trail but we didn't," Schols said. "Then one day we saw a guy get out of his car with a suitcase and walk up to Boeing. That's when we knew what was going on."
For several years, Boeing workers had been parking briefly at the wetlands to smoke. The company outlawed smoking on its premises in 2008, a policy that pushed workers to public sidewalks near Boeing buildings and over to Narbeck.
But temporary parking and smoking are not what really concern Narbeck fans like Douglas, Schols and Jennifer Buma, who likes taking her dog for a walk there after dropping her children off at school. The Mill Creek resident sometimes has to park illegally or in an area where she's not sure parking is allowed because the lot is full.
"I always thought (Narbeck) was for the community, but Boeing has taken it over," she said.
It's no secret that Boeing is adding workers. What it hasn't added is more parking.
The number of people employed by Boeing in Washington has increased in 2012 by 5,045 positions, to 87,023, and is up 13,406 since January 2011. The company's Everett location has seen its share of new workers with jet production booming. Boeing has established a 787 modification center at Paine Field and opened a temporary 787 "surge line" within the Everett factory.
In late 2010, Boeing transferred as many as 900 engineers to Everett from Renton. Some work in Boeing's Bomark Building, which has its own parking lot off Airport Road. Some work in the engineering towers off Seaway Boulevard, near the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary.
But Boeing hasn't increased the number of parking spaces at the Everett site, which is in the city of Everett, since 1991. An environmental impact statement limits the number of spaces at the site to 21,000, Elizabeth Fischtziur, a Boeing spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
In addition to employees, the Everett site sees a large number of visitors daily. Altogether, the number of people at the Everett site can exceed the number of parking spaces, Fischtziur wrote.
To cope with the challenge, Boeing has a "robust alternate commuting program in place," she wrote. The program includes incentives for employees who use mass transit, carpools or the company's internal shuttle system.
But that effort is falling short, if you ask some Boeing workers and others who frequent the Narbeck lot.
Over the past year, parking for workers has become harder to find, says a Boeing employee who parks on company property and asked not to be identified. People park at Boeing in fire lanes and on sidewalks. "It's a safety concern," the worker said.
The worker, who feared the implications of being quoted by name, said he has raised the issue with a manager, Boeing security and upper management.
He used to be able to arrive at Boeing about 10 minutes before his shift at 6 a.m. Now the worker has to get to work 30 minutes early to find parking on-site.
So it's no wonder some are parking at the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary. At 6:55 a.m. on a recent Monday, four cars were parked there. A couple of hours later, however, 40 vehicles clogged the lot and lined the entrance off Seaway, blocking the wetland area's restrooms and, in places, other vehicles.
With few exceptions, the drivers, sporting company badges, had gotten out of their cars, grabbed purses or briefcases or both and walked down the road to Boeing.
Boeing is "actively working with the city of Everett to revise our environmental impact statement which could bring parking relief in the future," Fischtziur wrote in her email.
Parking relief at Boeing could come in many forms, said Allan Giffen, director of planning and community development for the city of Everett.
Workers could park at an off-site location and be shuttled onto Boeing property. The company could re-stripe the parking lot to make more efficient use of existing space. Or the company could knock down unused buildings to create more parking, Giffen said.
Fischtziur ruled out adding a parking garage, however. A parking tower would consolidate spaces into one location, increasing traffic during shift changes, she wrote.
Since an environmental impact statement was performed on the Boeing site fairly recently, Giffen said, the city could expedite review of any proposed parking plan Boeing devised.
Once Boeing submits a plan, the company could receive the city's decision "within a month," Giffen said.
Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary was established in the late 1990s to mitigate damage to wetlands at Paine Field for an addition there. The Snohomish County-owned airport is in charge of the wetland. Earlier this year, frequent Narbeck visitor Schols contacted the airport's deputy director, Bill Lewallen, who was recognized in 2008 by the state Department of Ecology for leading the wetland-mitigation effort.
"Bill knows about the problem," Schols said.
Lewallen referred questions about parking at Narbeck to Dave Waggoner, the airport director.
"I think human nature is that we're all going to take the quickest route," Waggoner said.
Waggoner and airport workers are looking for a way to reserve parking for people who use the wetland sanctuary.
"We want members of the community to be able to use it," he said. However, Waggoner avoided laying the blame on Boeing.
"Boeing can't deal with parking off-site," Waggoner said.
Waggoner declined to say whether he had discussed the issue with Boeing.
Paine Field officials hope to get help from the county Parks and Recreation Department, which has more expertise in managing parks and wetlands than does the airport, Waggoner said.
Hal Gausman, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, agrees.
"It seems like a good fit for us," he said.
For about a month, Gausman and airport officials have been discussing what role each will play at Narbeck. Gausman said enforcement of rules, including parking, would be a priority. An agreement between the parks department and airport could be reached within months.
That would be welcome news for Gretel Alasti, who has walked at Narbeck for many years. Alasti enjoys Narbeck's wildlife, which includes an owl, rabbits and ducks.
Over the past year, though, Alasti hasn't always been able to use the trails because of the parking crunch. Like other Narbeck enthusiasts, Alasti is understanding: It's good that Boeing is adding workers, and many of them helped make the signs or volunteer at Narbeck.
But when people who aren't using the wetlands take up Narbeck's parking spaces, "it's wrong," Alasti said.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; email@example.com.
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