Mukilteo mulls paid parking at Lighthouse Park

MUKILTEO — Free parking at the city’s Lighthouse Park, known for beachfront views of Possession Sound and the Olympic Mountains, might soon end.

The city is considering adding paid hourly parking at the park, perhaps as soon as April.

The park is magnet for picnickers, walkers and volleyball players, a launching site for boaters, and the home of the city’s farmers market — drawing an estimated 750,000 visitors a year.

On sunny days, the park is so jammed that the city pays to have someone help direct traffic and turn away cars when there’s no parking left.

“It’s a chronic problem,” said Randy Lord, City Council president. “All the feedback we’ve received from citizens is they need help getting into their own park.”

The exact pay-to-park rates have yet to be determined but could be $2 an hour from May 1 to Sept. 30 and $1 an hour from Oct. 1 to April 30. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled at the council’s Nov. 24 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

The money collected from parking fees would be used to help pay for maintenance and make park improvements.

Two park rangers would be hired to help with enforcing park rules and the paid parking program, said Mayor Jennifer Gregerson.

City residents can get passes so they don’t have to pay the hourly rate, since taxes pay for maintenance and improvements at the park, said Marko Liias, a policy analyst for the city. However, an administrative fee may be charged to get the pass.

The parking kiosks and scanners needed to check whether there’s a parking violation are expected to cost about $200,000.

Depending on what rates are chosen and when they go into effect, the paid parking program could bring in $60,000 to $185,000 net revenue in the first year. By the fifth year, it could bring in $220,000 to $345,000 annually, Gregerson said.

“This gives us a monetary source to continue to improve the waterfront,” she said.

City staff members have recommended getting the plan in place “in advance of the summer surge,” Liias said.

City Council member Steve Schmalz said he’s always wanted a parking plan at the park that would allow city residents to park for free and to charge non-residents. City residents pay for the park’s upkeep, he said. “There’s not enough parking spots to accommodate everybody.”

“It’s so needed,” Schmalz said of the park’s pay-for-parking proposal. “Our residents don’t go down to the park because they can’t find a spot in the summertime. It makes things difficult for everybody.”

A plan to start charging for parking isn’t aimed at discouraging people from coming, he said. “Hopefully, they won’t stay as long and give other people the opportunity to come and enjoy the park.”

His wife, Christine Schmalz, teaches art classes in a building on First Street near the waterfront. The demand for parking can be so great that “I can’t park at my own business,” she said. “It’s a great place to have a business, it’s just a tough place to park,” she said.

The convenience of driving up to the beach “is incredible,” she said. “If they really want it, they’ll pay for it.”

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

Public hearing

The City of Mukilteo is considering adding paid hourly parking at Lighthouse Park and nearby areas on Front Street, Park Avenue and First Street. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled during the City Council’s Nov. 24 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way. The public may also email comments to the city at kalmgren@ci.mukilteo.wa.

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