Parking a perennial problem at popular Lighthouse Park

MUKILTEO — Getting a parking space at Lighthouse Park can feel like winning the lottery.

On sunny summer days, other drivers aren’t so lucky. Many circle the parking lot over and over so they can spend time at a park that has just about everything — sandy beaches, a boat launch, picnic shelters, a wedding circle and stunning views of Possession Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Last week, one driver cut to the front of a line of five cars waiting for a spot in the designated parking for the farmers market.

“Hey!” exclaimed Nancy Scherrer, of Mukilteo, who could only sigh in frustration.

Drivers also have been known to double park, illegally use handicapped parking spots or park in fire lanes or spots set aside for boat trailers.

On the weekend of July 12 and 13, the city handed out 93 tickets for parking violations at the park, said Chuck Macklin, the city’s acting police chief. Drivers typically end up paying a $40 fine. That can balloon to $125 for parking in a fire lane and $450 for parking in a handicapped parking spot without a permit.

Major remodeling projects at the park in 2008 and 2010 added amenities like more restrooms and a picnic shelter, but took away some parking spots. That created high demand for the 280 that are left.

Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the summer are the toughest times to get parking, Macklin said. The city hired a parking lot attendant last week to work on those days, posting a sign when the lot is full and directing people to look for parking elsewhere.

“They’ve created a real gem at the end of the Mukilteo Speedway,” Maklin said. “There’s not enough parking spots for the demand.”

Shanita Duke, a community service officer with the Mukilteo Police Department, said conflicts often arise from passenger cars parking in spots reserved for boats and trailers.

Visitors sometimes try to reserve spots for other people joining them at the park, she said. “There’s a lot of frustration and I get it.”

If drivers go to the nearby waterfront business district, they need to ensure they don’t park in spaces reserved for local businesses, Macklin said. “They could get ticketed or towed.”

There’s parking along Second Street in lots not reserved by nearby restaurants. But that means about a 12-minute walk to the park. People have to cross the State Route 525 bridge, often bound up by a long line of idling cars queued up for the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry. Parking is available the Rosehill Community Center when other events aren’t scheduled there.

Visitors also have the option of parking along Mukilteo Speedway and taking the bus to the park.

On Wednesday evenings, a free farmers market shuttle, paid for by the market’s vendors, is available at the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Avenue to transport shoppers, said Anna Tink, a market volunteer.

Forrest Wetzel, a shuttle bus driver, said that ridership was so great one recent evening that he had to make an extra, unscheduled trip to pick up the last remaining shoppers.

On busy days, as many as 3,000 people come to the market.

“That beach does bring in a huge draw,” Tink said.

Over the years, the market has been at three locations, she said. “This by far has been the best sales for us.”

They city has been working hard on trying to find solutions, she said. “It’s been a very, very sore subject. It’s a bottleneck down there. It’s been a bottleneck for 40 years.”

Adele Daniels, owner of Pop’s Carmel Corn, one of the market’s vendors, said she thinks that parking issues can keep people away from the market.

“I’ve been doing the market for many years,” she said. “There is a parking issue and has been for some time.”

Traffic problems are caused not just by the park but by ferry traffic, she said.

If the farmers market were moved to another location along Mukilteo Speedway, it might provide more parking, but the setting wouldn’t be the same. “When the beach is nice, they want to be there,” she said. “I don’t know what the resolution is.”

Ashley Phaysith, of Shoreline, and her friend Vivian Lee, of Lynnwood, went to the park last week to play volleyball. They had to circle the park five times to find parking.

“More parking would be nice,” Phaysith said.

It took two trips for Scherrer, who lives in Mukilteo, to get to the market last week. The first time, she got stuck in traffic in the park’s roundabout. “I had to scrap it,” she said. “I probably should have walked.

“They could have more people — a lot more people — if it was accessible,” she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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