March 28, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 12

Ferry terminal parking crackdown

Ferry system officials are planning to eliminate overnight parking at the Lutak terminal by fall, when construction activities are set to begin. The rebuilt terminal will be surrounded by a locked fence under Homeland Security regulations after planned renovations, said Haines terminal manager Fuzzy von Stauffenberg.

  “By fall, we’re hoping to achieve compliance because there’s going to be a lot going on,” von Stauffenberg said.

  Tourism director Tanya Carlson contacted von Stauffenberg and the ferry system last week after receiving calls from ferry users who were told they could not park their vehicles overnight at the terminal.

Cheri Murphy, terminal operations manager for the ferry system, said no overnight parking is authorized at the terminals, for reasons including liability, vandalism and snow plowing.

“Although this has been our policy for as long as I’ve been working for AMHS (2004), it was not fully enforced until recently and was re-approved by the former Deputy Commissioner Neussl,” Murphy wrote in an email forwarded to Carlson.

  Murphy said signs reading, “No Overnight Parking, Unauthorized Vehicles will be Towed at Owner’s Expense,” will be installed at all terminals this spring. A few terminals installed the signs last year.

  The change is being made systemwide, von Stauffenberg said, noting that it’s already in place in Hoonah, following improvements to the terminal there. A possible exception may be vehicles owned by ferry employees working on vessels, she said.

  “Vehicles get broken into, bashed on, whatever... and it becomes a liability for the Alaska Marine Highway,” von Stauffenberg said. “We want people to get into the practice of not leaving their vehicles there.”

  Carlson said she understood part of the reason for the upcoming crackdown is the number of vehicles being abandoned, some with “For Sale” signs in the windows, at the Ketchikan and Juneau ferry terminals.

When Carlson received Murphy’s email, she alerted Mayor Stephanie Scott and manager Mark Earnest about the crackdown and pending signs. Scott said this week she initially “pitched a fit,” but intends to have discussions with ferry officials to reach some kind of solution.

“The administration here wasn’t notified. We didn’t know. The application or the resurrection of the policy fortunately didn’t get activated immediately. There’s going to be plenty of time to have discussions and get everyone on the same page,” Scott said.

Scott said she would try to schedule a teleconference with ferry officials to discuss options for overnight parking. She suggested the ferry system might issue parking passes to its customers. “In my mind the pass would be free, but they could also charge for it if they want.”

Other ideas include time limits or designated areas for overnight parking.

Carlson said the ferry system’s marketing director Danielle Adkins has indicated an exception might be made for Haines.

“(Adkins) agrees that there is probably something that needs to be done with that policy to make that exception for people that are actually utilizing the ferry, because not all of the communities have that capacity to park in either a public lot or be able to be dropped off out there,” Carlson said.

Other terminals in Southeast have arrangements that make the ferry’s overnight parking policy moot, including Skagway, which offers public parking near the terminal. “If we had a public parking lot right next door, it wouldn’t be a problem. (The ferry system) could have whatever policy they wanted to have, and we wouldn’t need to fuss,” Scott said.