Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Dock parking ban irks locals


June 9, 2011

The Haines Borough put together a parking plan for Port Chilkoot Dock this week after residents reacted angrily to warning tickets they received for parking at the dock when no ship was in port.

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot," resident Dick Flegel said last weekend. "Now you cannot even park in it."

Under the plan issued Tuesday, public parking is prohibited on cruise ship days while some four-hour parking will be available when ships are not docked.

"The parking lot’s almost not big enough to accommodate all of the different vendors and the operators," said borough manager Mark Earnest. "That’s the primary purpose of that project, to accommodate the buses and the shuttles related to cruise ships."

At least seven residents received written warnings for parking at the dock as of Monday, according to police reports. Courtney Culbeck and a few locals left the beach on Tuesday and found bright orange warning stickers on their vehicles.

Culbeck said she is OK with the proposed restriction of public parking on cruise ship days, but on other days she wants residents "not just shoved to one end."

She said beach parking could be a safety hazard for families with young children if they don’t have better access.

"We are developing our operating plan as we go along," Earnest said. "We’re trying to figure out the best way to accommodate all of the different user groups and interests and trying to do the best that we can to accommodate everybody as much as possible."

Flegel last week snapped a picture of a sign at the lot that declared parking there was by permit only and violators would be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.

The lot was part of an estimated $2 million for Port Chilkoot Dock waterfront improvements that included restrooms for tourists. A former gravel lot at the dock had designated spots for public use.

Flegel said the parking arrangement there "kind of irks me. It’s a nice facility and they did take away some beach and they made it into that parking lot, but you’ve got to be a member of the exclusive club to be able to park there," he said.

"A lot of times, there aren’t any ships around, and it’s empty. It sort of sends the message that you can’t even go there and park and look."

Under the draft plan, parking on the water side of the lot will require a commercial passenger vehicle permit and non-permitted vehicles will be ticketed and towed at owner’s expense effective 6 a.m. any morning a cruise ship is scheduled to dock.

Borough, emergency, public safety and utility vehicles are exempt, as are private vehicles allowed by special-use permits, which "shall be issued by the manager as required for short-term parking under special circumstances."

A traffic director on cruise ship days will help with traffic flow and vehicles backing out of spaces, assist cruise ship passengers and "keep non-permitted vehicles from parking within the lot."

Borough facilities director Brad Maynard said the lot has two handicapped spaces, plus spaces designated for 11 cars, eight tour buses and one shuttle bus.

On days with no cruise ship at port, eight spaces on the water side will continue to be for permitted vehicles only, with "absolutely" no public parking allowed on the water side of the lot, the plan said. Permitted vehicles are to use the lot for staging, loading and unloading, with overflow parking on the street side.

Public parking has a four-hour limit and is offered from 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. during the tourism season that runs May 1 to Sept. 30.

Resident Suzanne Vuillet-Smith said the Port Chilkoot Dock restroom building "is designed beautifully," but she has "a real problem about not being allowed to park on cruise ship days, because they’ve got that Haines-Skagway Fast Ferry; it’s not just for cruise ships."

The operating plan draft specifies additional Haines-Skagway Fast Ferry parking "located in the dirt lot to the south of the PC Dock and the dirt lot off Mud Bay Road across from Outfitter Sporting Goods."

Vuillet-Smith noted the area by the dock also is popular for local beach-goers.

"Just because the cruise ships come, it doesn’t mean that individuals are discriminated against," she said. "It’s a borough facility down there and it was built with tourism tax. What if we want to be tourists?"