Ferry yard parking lot will be big

But a one-space-per-worker layout follows city code, WSF planners say.

If good fences make good neighbors, what kind of neighbor does the parking lot behind the fence make?

Washington State Ferries officials and a local Community Design Roundtable tackled both of these questions during a meeting Monday to discuss the $40 million modernization project under way at the Eagle Harbor ferry maintenance yard.

While some of WSF’s fence designs – including one that incorporated recycled industrial parts – found favor with roundtable members, plans to retain about 140 employee parking spots elicited concerns.

The lot will sit behind the facility’s north fence, next to Winslow’s downtown waterfront trail.

“You’ll be here for the next hundred years,” said member and local historian Jerry Elfendahl. “But the need for all that parking might not be here, the way the world’s going.”

Other members urged WSF to consider the growing trend of alternative modes of transportation – such as buses, carpools and motorcycles – to reduce some of the parking area.

WSF officials said the parking lot design simply follows city code, which specifies one spot per employee. Officials also asserted that reducing the parking area would be unpopular with the yard’s employees.

“Currently, we have one (parking spot) for each employee,” said WSF project manager Lisa Parriot. “If we take that away, it gives less benefit.”

Members said zoning rules may change as the City Council considers recommendations from the Winslow Tomorrow project, which aim for reduced surface parking.

Elfendahl suggested WSF follow suit and consider underground parking at the site.

“You can do like the condos have done,” he said, referring to residences east of the yard. “They’ve got underground parking and they’ve done it quite well.

“If you stack the parking, we could have a waterfront like Kingston – a people place.”

But with the yard’s upgrades already under way, WSF appeared unwilling to revamp its plans.

“The master plan, for us, is 100 percent done on the inside,” Parriot said.

Plans for the “outside” – including the yard’s fence – are still wide open.

According to one of the project’s designers, state and federal security requirements allow a fair amount of flexibility in fence materials and design.

A series of conceptual drawings showed fences that incorporate trellised vegetation, artwork cast into the wall’s form, viewing stations with interpretive signs on the yard’s history and the incorporation of materials salvaged from the yard.

The range of possible designs alleviated some members’ fears that the trail leading to Waterfront Park would be bordered by sun-blotting concrete or a prison-style, chain-link-and-barbed-wire combination.

“My main concern has to do with what you’ll do with the fence,” committee member Frank Vibrans said. “I don’t like a solid wall. (There’s) a negative psychic impact that’s separate and exclusive, like the late Berlin Wall.”

Members expressed support for a varied design that allows views of the yard and harbor, incorporates information about the area’s maritime history, employs local artists and possibly incorporates the old anchors, chains, gears or other industrial cast-asides removed from the yard during upgrades.

WSF plans to exhibit some of its wall designs around the island in the coming weeks.

Officials also pledged to discuss possible ferry yard parking reductions with its employees before the roundtable’s next meeting in early May.

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