Several years have passed since parking problems at Wallace Falls State Park near Gold Bar warranted making roadside spaces illegal for vehicles.
The waterfalls hike draws hundreds of visitors per day, especially between March and October, and on holidays and weekends. But the trailhead lot only has 107 parking spaces, which has led to vehicle parkers spilling out onto Ley Road, back into town.
A new small development of houses could be a glimpse of a future solution. Wallace Falls Court, the subdivision where Ley Road and May Creek Road meet, has been approved for seven plots. The first permit to build a home was submitted recently, according to city officials.
But with the new homes coming along a street that can be lined with vehicles during weekends, the city wanted to get ahead of potential conflicts between residents and visitors.
“While the state park is a good neighbor and we encourage hikers and activity up there, we also don’t want it to be a problem for our residents,” Gold Bar Public Works director Rich Norris said at a City Council meeting Tuesday.
Based on the council’s direction, Norris proposed creating parking permits for residents who could get up to four decals per household. Doing so would require the Gold Bar City Council to approve an amendment to city code.
The city priced parking stickers at about $250 for 300, Norris said. Per the draft ordinance, Wallace Falls Court residents could apply for them with proof of residence and get the decals for free. It would not affect parking rules along Ley Road or May Creek Road.
“We’re not planning on shutting down parking along May Creek Road,” Gold Bar Mayor pro tem Chuck Lie said.
There were issues in the past with drivers clogging the shoulder because the trailhead lot was full. But those conflicts have subsided lately, said Courtney O’Keefe, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which is contracted by Gold Bar for law enforcement.
Even through the pandemic last year, it was a busy time for hiking trails, and 187,573 visitors went to Wallace Falls, according to state data. During the stay-home orders, deputies in Gold Bar made one parking enforcement action, O’Keefe said. Since Jan. 1, the department has received two parking complaints and a handful of traffic complaints near the state park.
Councilman Steven Yarbrough asked about enforcement of the parking restrictions, which could require the decals Fridays, Saturdays and holidays.
Gold Bar Police Chief Craig Hess said the officers can issue a ticket, place a 24-hour tow warning sticker on a vehicle, or request a tow. But he first wants to work with the state park ranger to spread word in hiking communities about the potential new no-parking zone.
“We want to gain compliance more collaboratively with them,” he said.
Councilman Jordan Sears wondered what Wallace Falls Court residents would do if they had guests over on weekends and holidays. They could come to city hall and ask for more parking permits temporarily.
Wallace Falls Court’s new parking rules are an experiment, Norris said. Another development, with up to 54 homes and two new streets, is being pursued along Ley Road.
The ordinance is expected to be on the next Gold Bar City Council meeting agenda.
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