Ticket risks: DNR officers to get enforcement authority for illegal parking at trailheads
It's a local problem, but also a regional one. The residents of Mount Si Road and Cedar Falls Road struggle with cars parked illegally in and around their driveways and sometimes directly in front of "No Parking" signs, every summer weekend and often during the week.
So do the people living along every road leading to a scenic trailhead, the Washington Department of Natural Resources officers who'd like to ticket or tow those illegally parked cars, and the King County Sheriff's Department that can't often spare the deputy time to enforce parking rules on these remote roads.
A solution is on the horizon.
With a handful of meetings and a handful of people, residents of North Bend's Mount Si Road and staff with the nearby Department of Natural Resources office have come up with a plan that will address illegal parking on Mount Si Road and further.
"The first thing is we need to have better wayfinding signs," said Katie Woolsey, project manager with the DNR, and project lead on the meetings with residents. Also on the list are more "No Parking" signs and improved communications with all of the affected parties — residents, users, and local and state agencies.
Most importantly, "Our officers are going to have enforcement authority," said Woolsey.
As soon as the sheriff's department and DNR finalize an agreement, the DNR's 12 enforcement officers, all retired Washington State Patrolmen, will be empowered to write tickets for illegal parking, and to have cars towed, if needed.
"We've wanted this to manage the whole system," Woolsey added, including the Cedar Falls Road. She credited the Mount Si Road residents for their outreach to county officials to find a solution.
"The explosion of use here, especially this spring, got the neighbors to write to the Sheriff," about the need for more enforcement, she explained.
Since Mount Si Road is largely in unincorporated North Bend, the sheriff's department has jurisdiction to write tickets and tow cars.
Tickets aren't a real deterrent, since at $20, they cost less than the Discover Pass needed to park at trailheads.
Towing takes hours of a deputy's time, just to remove one car, but deputies did spend several weekends doing that work during a recent warm spell in the Valley.
The DNR's enforcement authority is limited to one year for now, but King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert said "I hope this is going to be a permanent thing… we are very excited about the opportunity."
Lambert, along with Sheriff Urquhart and Doug McClelland with the DNR toured the popular trailheads along Mount Si and Cedar Falls Road on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, to see firsthand the problems.
Since then, Lambert noted, the county authorized more No Parking signs, installed in early June, and is considering projects to create more parking for trailheads.
One of those projects, the DNR's proposed new site for the Mount Teneriffe trailhead, is progressing now, with the help of the Mount Si Road residents. The planned trailhead (see map) will replace the steep site with limited parking, with a flatter access point to the Mount Teneriffe and Mount Si trails, along with parking for about 80 cars.
The $800,000 project initially met resistance from many residents, concerned that the trailhead would attract more visitors to an already overwhelmed road.
DNR staff met with the residents who raised concerns and as a result, formed a working group of residents and staff to identify and solve the roadway's main challenges.
Signs and enforcement were the top issues, along with public safety, Woolsey said. Along with the signs already in place, she noted that her department is working to raise the parking ticket fine, as an illegal parking deterrent.
Wayfinding, another important solution, includes signs and trailhead kiosks, with information about other nearby trailheads, the option to park at the future Teneriffe lot and take a connecting trail to the Mount Si Trail and vice-versa.
Improved communications could also improve the parking and traffic problems. Woolsey noted that the Snoqualmie Valley Trail passes very close to the Teneriffe trailhead, so recreational users could park in North Bend, for example at North Bend Elementary School which is right next to the trail, then walk out to the trailhead.
Although they don't run on weekends, Snoqualmie Valley Transportation shuttles could help weekday users get to and from their destinations without parking illegally, too. Find schedules and more information at www.svtbus.org.
For the latest information from the DNR on the Teneriffe trailhead and other projects, sign up for e-mail updates at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/MountTeneriffe.