Residents have been parking on the side of the road to get to houses across Mud Bay for decades. And, according to the state, the vehicles lined up on the side of the route have become increasingly hazardous. Representatives from the Department of Transportation will be in Haines on Friday to meet with residents about a possible solution.
On any given day, there can be a dozen or more vehicles parked along the side of Mud Bay Road. Residents hoof it across the flats to off-grid homes in the secluded and picturesque area. For the most part, those who live across the bay have parked and trekked happily and without consequence. But in recent months, complaints about parking and trespassing have been sent to the state. And now, DOT and the Haines Borough are taking action.
Jeremy Woodrow is a spokesperson for DOT. He says the state is working with the borough to come up with a solution to the parking problem. He says the cars are parked on a state right-of-way and are posing a safety concern.
“The parking issue from DOT’s perspective is (that) the amount of cars on the side of the road is becoming a maintenance issue and can lead to a safety issue,” Woodrow says. “That many cars in the state right-of-way makes it difficult for DOT maintenance vehicles to do the work that we need to do.”
Cars line the road at about Mile 7. Woodrow says the vehicles that park there for a few hours aren’t an issue, but it’s the ones that are there for days at a time that pose a concern.
“It’s not that it’s happening all of a sudden,” he says. “This has been an issue that has been building for a matter of many years, many decades even. There are other issues that the borough has brought up; I think there are some residents in the area that are having issues where people are parking and using access to get across the flats there. From the department’s perspective it’s just that that many vehicles parking in the right-of-way are posing a maintenance issue.”
Woodrow says DOT has offered to work with the Haines Borough and bring in fill from out the Haines Highway to help make a parking pad somewhere to get vehicles off the road.
“We understand that this likely won’t be a quick fix. It might take just as long to find a resolution in this matter as it has built to create an issue.”
The department doesn’t have figures about the number of cars parked on the road, but Woodrow says, anecdotally, he’s hearing that the number of people parking there is on the rise.
“We aren’t looking to enforce this right away,” Woodrow says. “We aren’t going to be asking the troopers or local law enforcement to write tickets or to tow vehicles. We just want people to be aware of the situation and know that we’re working toward a solution.”
Woodrow says Friday’s meeting in Haines is just the beginning of the conversation.
Borough Manager Bill Seward says that, yes, the borough is looking at building a parking lot. But finding land to buy or lease is a road block.
“I’ve been going through the plats and I’m trying to figure out who owns what out there, so that we can approach them,” Seward says.
Seward and DOT representatives are heading out to Mud Bay early Friday afternoon before the scheduled town-hall meeting to scope out the situation. He says the parking lot idea is their only course of action at the moment, so he’s hoping a landowner will step up and partner with the borough.
“We’re hoping that the town hall, that all the affected residents will come. We can tell them what we’re thinking, what we saw, listen to their ideas and try to come a solution.”
The meeting is scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. at the library.