GOLD BAR — Sure, it’s beautiful, but try to park on a Saturday after 11 a.m.
Wallace Falls State Park, just outside of Gold Bar, is one of Snohomish County’s most popular outdoor attractions. The first portion of the hike is child-friendly, which brings in young families and group outings.
The state counted 224,000 visits to the park in 2016. Yet there are only 108 parking spots. That was the subject of many of the comments collected at a recent public meeting about the future of the park. A state study is under way into land use at Wallace Falls, including parking. In addition, the rules on neighboring roads have been getting stricter.
There is no overflow lot. The lone route to reach the trailhead, Ley Road, runs through city and county jurisdiction. Street parking on the unincorporated portion of Ley Road, north of the Wallace River, hasn’t been allowed for decades, said Dale Valliant, traffic operations supervisor with Snohomish County public works.
“People were not using good judgment and parking in places where it really wasn’t safe or appropriate,” Valliant said.
The same goes for the county’s stretch of May Creek Road, the next closest street, which also leads out of town. From there, it’s an uphill walk of nearly half a mile to reach the trailhead. That hasn’t been much of a deterrence.
Last summer, the county added three more no-parking signs in the neighborhood. The request came from Gold Bar Police Chief Dave Casey, a sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
In May 2016, the city of Gold Bar banned street parking on its stretch of Ley Road. The impetus was “numerous citizen complaints and numerous 911 calls,” city clerk-treasurer Lisa Stowe said. People were blocking driveways and taking up private property or half the roadway, she said. That created problems for pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
“The only changes that have been made since then have been replacing signs when people steal, or pull up, the existing signs,” she said.
Deputies have made note of parking problems on Ley Road at least six times since the rules changed, according to sheriff’s office records.
The state’s long-terms plans for Wallace Falls remain under review.
A public meeting was held in November, and others are likely to follow in February and April, according to an agency spokeswoman.
More than 100 comments from the first meeting were posted online, and about a third of them touched on parking. Some people suggested adding a shuttle or bus service to the trailhead. Some said they wanted the no-parking signs to go away; others wanted more enforcement.
The state parks commission is expected to consider a final plan for Wallace Falls in the fall. The public is encouraged to provide comments by contacting email@example.com, 360-902-8632.