GOLD BAR — The chances of adding as many as 100 new parking spots at the popular Wallace Falls State Park got a big boost earlier this week.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday approved a proposal for additional parking and trails as well as protection for the park’s lakes and rivers.
“The commission action allows us to move forward,” state parks planner Randy Kline said. “The biggest issue is parking.”
The park has 108 stalls and that limit is often exceeded on weekends and holidays with as many as 150 vehicles parking outside of the Wallace Falls entrance, especially along Ley and May Creek roads.
With 12 miles of foot trails, Wallace Falls is primarily a day-use park, although there are five cabins and three backcountry campsites for some overnight recreation. Its most popular feature is the Woody trail, which provides three waterfall viewpoints along 2.75 miles of trail through lowland forest.
The low elevation allows some early spring hiking and the scenic falls make it a popular hike along busy U.S. 2.
Parks has identified a few nearby lots, including ones owned by Snohomish County and Camp Huston, for potential additional parking areas. The estimate of up to 100 parking spaces is “based on some very preliminary concept drawings,” Kline said.
The backing of the parks commission provides a foundation for asking the Legislature for money to make it happen, he said. There is no specific timeline for completing the improvements.
“It won’t happen overnight but there is a lot of public support for it,” he said.
Some areas next to Wallace Falls State Park are owned by the Department of Natural Resources. There’s potential for some new trail connections, or even a new approach to the falls. Parks planners are considering a second, disconnected parking lot to allow visitors to hike to the falls from a different direction. That would help reduce wear and tear on the main trail, which is heavily used.
Much of the state DNR-managed land surrounding the park will be harvested for timber in coming years, according to state parks. In an area adjacent to the southeast boundary of Wallace Falls State Park, attempts to harvest a 187-acre area known as the Singletary tract have stalled for more than a decade over environmental and aesthetic concerns.
The parks commission also approved classifying some areas around Wallace Lake, Shaw Lake, Jay Lake, the Wallace River and the North Fork Wallace River as natural areas to provide extra protection.