Days at Snohomish County beaches, parks may take some planning this summer

It was a perfect beach day. With the sun out and temperatures in the 70s, the place should have been packed. It wasn’t.

Here’s what I saw at Everett’s Howarth Park Friday afternoon: an empty playground; a sign at a trail entrance saying “Howarth Beach Access Temporarily CLOSED; a barrier blocking the road to the parking area nearest the beach; and a lone man in that parking lot who declined to be interviewed.

He may or may not have been headed to the sandy beach on the far side of the BNSF Railway tracks — but now and for nearly a year to come that’s dangerous and illegal.

On May 14, the city of Everett closed the Howarth Park pedestrian bridge. With stairs leading to a span high above the tracks, the bridge is the only allowable access to a long stretch of beach that also includes an off-leash dog area.

The Herald’s Chris Winters reported May 13 that KPFF Consulting Engineers, a contractor for the city, found during an inspection that the 27-year-old bridge’s steel beams showed significant rust and corrosion.

Everett Parks Director Paul Kaftanski said Friday the contractor’s initial report, detailing structure findings and repair cost estimates, will likely be available to the City Council this week. He expects the bridge’s walking surface will need full replacement, and doesn’t see a chance the beach will be open anytime this year.

On Friday, a big sign was posted along the road leading to the park’s lower section. It says the beach will be closed until the spring of 2016 for two projects. Emergency bridge repair is due to be finished this fall, but Snohomish County’s Nearshore Beach Restoration Project will keep visitors off the beach until next spring.

So there I was, looking ahead to a summery weekend and thinking about options. More than that, I was thinking about families whose affordable options don’t include taking long drives to other beaches, or paying fees at other popular waterfront parks.

A week ago, Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Park ended its free parking for people not living in that city. A long stay won’t be cheap. Parking at Lighthouse Park now costs $2 an hour May 1 to Sept. 30, and will be $1 per hour Oct. 1 to April 30.

For years, Lighthouse Park was Mukilteo State Park, but that was before state parks required a one-day entry fee ($10) or annual Discover Pass ($30).

Snohomish County has lovely parks, but again the popular waterfront destinations will cost you if you drive. An annual pass is $70 to park at Kayak Point County Park on Port Susan, Willard Wyatt County Park on Lake Stevens, Flowing Lake County Park in Snohomish, or Wenberg County Park on Lake Goodwin. Daily parking at those four parks is $7 — and no, your state Discover Pass isn’t good at a county park.

There are still nearby parks where a day at the beach won’t cost more than gas money and the price of a picnic.

Depending on whether you hope to swim or wade, stroll the shoreline, let kids dig in the sand, or sit and read a book, a few spots come to mind — I know I’m skipping lots of great getaways. My quickest go-to summer place has been Howarth for years, so this summer will take planning.

Here are just a few places to try this summer:

Everett’s Thornton A. Sullivan Park on Silver Lake has free parking and a swimming area. Brackett’s Landing North in Edmonds includes the underwater dive park, just north of the Edmonds-Kingston ferry landing at the foot of Main Street. On the north edge of Everett, Langus Riverfront Park along the Snohomish River on Smith Island has a boat launch, fishing pier, rowing dock, paved trail, and access to hiking and bird-watching on Spencer Island. And Mukilteo’s Edgewater Beach, former Port of Everett property, is now accessible to the public.

If there’s a bright side to the closure of a favorite Everett beach, it’s that we’ll discover new hangouts this summer.

And hold on — the Port of Everett’s Jetty Island Days begin July 5. The quick passenger ferry trip is still free — parking is $3 — and Jetty Island is the best beach around.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

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For information about Everett’s closure of the Howarth Park pedestrian bridge to the beach, and alternative beach and off-leash access:

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