Cars parked on Mud Bay Road. (Jillian Rogers)

Cars parked on Mud Bay Road. (Jillian Rogers)

Good news came last week for Mud Bay residents involved in an ongoing parking problem. The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that parties involved had worked out a tentative agreement to the dilemma. A day later, however, the department realized it spoke too soon. But, a short-term solution is in the works, with a long-term fix hopefully not too far behind.

Residents who live around 7-Mile Mud Bay Road were told in recent months that they can no longer park along the side of the road. They’ve been leaving vehicles there to get to houses across the bay for decades. But, DOT told them they were encroaching on the right-of-way and posing a safety concern, and the cars needed to go. Joanne Schmidt, a right-of-way agent for DOT, visited Haines earlier this month to meet with irked Mud Bay residents. She sent an email on Wednesday saying that the issue had apparently been resolved for now.

She said that a couple of citizens out that way took some measurements and agreed to clear some brush to make a few parking spots farther away from the road. She wrote that DOT was satisfied with that plan. She also wrote that she could issue a special use permit so residents could work in the state right-of way with local DOT maintenance staff supervising the project. A second town-hall meeting slated for Friday was cancelled and residents breathed a sigh of relief.

“Parties are getting involved, they’re working toward some sort of solution – short term and long term – I think this all good news and I’m happy to hear it.”

That’s long time Mud Bay resident Joe Ordonez.  He says after a second email was received from Schmidt, a day after the first, he realized the issue was still very much in flux. The second letter stated that the brushing by residents was only a short-term solution, and that the borough should get involved as the permit applicant to the Department of Natural Resources. Schmidt also wrote that a permanent parking lot should still  be pursued, and that the Haines Borough should take the lead on that as well.

Still, Ordonez says he’s still happy that there’s some progress being made.

It doesn’t feel as adversarial,” he says. At first it felt like a little bit like ‘This is a big mess and you guys have to solve it.’ Instead it more like ‘Hey, let’s work together and figure this out.’ That’s the way we all want things to be like in Haines.”

Jeremy Woodrow is the spokesperson for DOT. He says the department is continuing the conversation with property owners along Mud Bay Road, but nothing has been officially approved.

“There is nothing concrete that has been signed or is moving forward,” Woodrow says. “They are exploring different options, and we are consulting with those property owners. We’re looking at what laws apply to parking on or near state right-of-way. That’s what we continue to do is try and find a resolution, but so far, there is yet to be a firm answer found.”

Woodrow says it’s up to the borough if they would be willing to make improvements to the area for a short-term fix.

“It definitely isn’t an issue that’s going away any time soon. It’s something that we want to continue those discussions to find something that works for everybody.”

He says a solution isn’t as simple as clearing away brush and throwing down some gravel.

“We’re not saying no, but we’re not saying yes, yet,” Woodrow says. “We’re willing to continue to look at this possibility, but it’s definitely not a perfect solution.”

The idea of residents creating parking spots farther from the roadway still isn’t far enough, Woodrow says. Vehicles would still be in the right-of-way and still be a hazard.

“It’s not just a cut and dry answer. That’s why we need to work with the borough or work with a homeowners association and figure out a good solution. Any solution that we do figure out for the interim is definitely just a temporary solution as we continue to work with the borough and the residents on a long-term parking solution.”

Woodrow says he’s not sure if another town hall meeting is in the works, but talks about a possible solution to the parking dilemma will continue.