Talk about a waste of good waterfront

A few years ago, some wag over Bremerton way sold T-shirts lampooning that city’s proliferation of waterfront parking lots.

Truly, nowhere was the economic malaise into which the town had settled post-Silverdale Mall more evident than in the drab expanses of asphalt overlooking picturesque Sinclair Inlet. Stunning land just begging for redevelopment as parks, condos – anything that would attract human eyes to appreciate the view – sat wasted on idled vehicles, collecting drippings from badly sealed oil pans and fattening a parking mogul’s retirement account.

Bremerton has since evolved a bit, but Bainbridge may assume its perch in the waterfront parking pantheon, or so it seems with plans to develop a 140-space lot with a $38 million revamp of the ferry maintenance yard next on Eagle Harbor. WSF officials met with islanders this week to talk about designs – not of the maintenance facility itself, which they say is already sketched out to their satisfaction – but rather the fence they’ll build around it by which we’re all supposed to pretend it isn’t there. Talk nonetheless turned to the expansive employee parking area that will sprawl next to Waterfront Park.

As WSF planners explained it, they’re bound to provide spaces for all of their employees lest anyone feel put out by a loss of “benefits,” and in any event, the plans simply follow parking standards set by the city. We can’t attest to the accuracy of the latter statement, but it does seem that such planning is at cross-purposes with goals long-held by the state and the Bainbridge Island community alike.

First, recall that back in 1991, the Washington Legislature passed the Commute Trip Reduction Law (RCW 70.94.521, for anyone who wants to look it up), directing any public agency with more than 100 employees at a single site to help its workers find alternative means of getting to work. The goal: to set a good example by cutting down on single-occupant vehicle use, traffic around state facilities, fuel consumption and parking demands. And if any state facility is well-positioned to get its workers out of the cars, it’s the maintenance yard, given that it sits just one block from a Kitsap Transit hub through which rumble a veritable fleet of buses every day. Seems like Washington State Ferries could show some leadership here, honor the state’s own directives and hand out bus passes to yard workers.

At the same time, wrangling continues over just how much land the state should dedicate to a recreational boat haul-out facility long promised to the Bainbridge Island community. WSF has grudgingly earmarked a single acre, a sliver of land on the west side of the repair yard. It seems the height of absurdity that WSF would haggle over that land, even as it intends to squander perfectly good acreage on a parking lot for employees who should be carpooling or riding the bus. If the city’s own parking standards mandate such a waste of land, then shame on the city – particularly as it works with a state agency that, again, is under its own mandate to reduce vehicle use by workers.

There may or may not be better uses for Eagle Harbor’s waterfront than a ferry maintenance yard. For darn sure, there are better uses than a parking lot with a view.

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