Morning sun was shining through the trees. The water was smooth as glass. And at least some trout were biting at Gissberg Twin Lakes. Yet for people enjoying the popular Snohomish County park Wednesday, there was unwelcome news.
Told that the county will soon impose a seasonal $5 day-use parking fee at the park west of I-5 in Marysville, Melissa Gisvold was disappointed. The Stanwood woman comes often to Gissberg Twin Lakes to fish.
“I come when I can, two to three times a week,” said Gisvold, 42. Two rectangular ponds created when builders of I-5 were excavating for gravel, Gissberg Twin Lakes “is one of the last fishing places you don’t have to pay to park,” she said.
The $5 daily fee, also being levied at the county’s Twin Rivers Park in Arlington, will be in effect June 15 through Labor Day, Sept. 2.
Already, the county collects a $10 day-use fee at five other parks with water access. For $75, annual passes may be used in all county parks with a parking fee: Flowing Lake, Gissberg Twin Lakes, Kayak Point, River Meadows, Twin Rivers, Wenberg and Wyatt parks.
“We need to create some level of cost recovery out there,” said Tom Teigen, director of the county’s parks department. Park users can expect to see more of the county’s rangers, he said. The goal is to keep parks “clean, safe and open.”
There’s a big cost difference between the county’s annual $75 pass and Washington’s $30-per-year Discover Pass, which covers state parks, plus lands managed by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources. A Discover Pass can’t be used at county parks.
Teigen believes the state “under-valued” its pass, and is now “under duress.”
While by far the majority of the county’s 110 park sites are free, the $5 fee “is a tool during the very high season when we see a lot of heavy use,” he said.
Water access draws crowds from all over the region. With Gissberg Twin Lakes being within Marysville’s boundaries, both city police and county rangers spend “a lot of time in that area,” Teigen said.
The county has designated a swimming area to separate swimmers from fishing.
“On 85-degree days, people are going to find water,” Teigen said. Life jackets are available for borrowing at Gissberg Twin Lakes through a county partnership with the state and other groups.
Gissberg’s North Lake is a fishing area for kids, ages 15 and under, and adults with disabilities. A wheelchair-accessible path has been built to lead anglers to the shore.
Teigen said the county didn’t want the fee imposed in the spring, due to fishing events. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife usually stocks the South Lake with rainbow trout in March, April and May. Also in May, two local fishing clubs stock the North Lake. Along with rainbow trout, blue gill and channel catfish are caught at Gissberg.
It’s also used by the North American Model Boating Association for radio-controlled boat racing. That group, Teigen said, rents the site and wouldn’t need to pay $5 parking fees.
“None of these decisions are easy. This is a very measured approach,” said Teigen, adding that the fee will be in effect only during the weeks when “we’re beyond capacity many days.” He said there may be help for those who truly can’t afford the fee if they contact the county’s parks department.
He also sees a time when Gissberg will become a Marysville city park. “Cities are maturing” and have more people, he said. Lake Stevens, Teigen said, is working on annexations and the county may “hand off” some parks.
“Ninety-five percent of folks coming to parks do the right things,” he said. “They pick up their trash and obey the rules.” It’s that small percentage of people who “are really aggravating to those folks.”
He hopes the fee fosters appropriate enjoyment of Gissberg and Twin Rivers, the place in Arlington where the Stillaguamish River’s north and south forks meet. “For 5 bucks they get riverfront for a day,” he said. “Illicit folks who grab two cases of beer and create problems, they don’t want to pay.”
People who were quietly enjoying the Gissberg lakes Wednesday don’t want to pay either.
Marysville’s Svetlana Pisarenko, 38, had packed a picnic lunch for her preschool-age children, Alesha, 4, and Camilla, 3. Their two older siblings were in school. Her 4-year-old has asked about having his birthday party at the park. “With a paid parking lot, no one will want to come,” his mother said.
At the far end of the South Lake, away from the freeway noise, retirees E.J. Silva, 57, and Clinton Jones, 69, had fishing lines in the water. They’d caught a couple trout. Together, the Marysville men go fishing at Gissberg three to four times a week.
“You see some amazing things out here,” said Silva, sharing a cellphone video of an eagle grabbing a fish. He recalls fishing as a boy with his grandfather. “It just brings back a lot of childhood memories,” he said.
“A lot of lakes, you have to pay to park,” Silva said. “We won’t be fishing as much.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about Snohomish County’s parks, fees and annual passes is at: snohomishcountywa.gov/1074/Parks