Parking problems persist at county park

Places to leave your vehicle while you explore Agate Beach or Iceberg Point on the south end of Lopez are few and far between. Visitors are often forced to park on private property or along the side of the road after the small parking area is filled.

“It has been determined for a number of years that there wasn’t enough parking at Agate Beach,” said Julie Thompson, a San Juan County planner. “It’s a little bit dangerous to get through.”

On July 13, the county will be holding a public hearing at 10 a.m. in the County Council Hearing Room on San Juan Island to determine how it will be handling the parking situation at Agate Beach. The meeting will be live-streamed at Until then, you can send comments to the county planning department although the public comment period has already officially concluded.

The road that currently runs past county park, MacKaye Harbor Road, is limited to one way traffic 200 feet prior to the park due to the potential of hazardous roadway erosion. The parking situation at Agate Beach is just one of the more immediate projects the county is considering in relation to the MacKaye Harbor Road vicinity.

“We’re doing it as a safety issue because right now the parking lot gets full and people park along the edge of the road,” said Shannon Wilbur, senior projects engineer for San Juan County. “It’s a narrow road anyway – now we do have it blocked off – so we have to get those cars off the road.”

The construction will add nine individual, off-road parking spaces. An existing, on-site parking lot can hold 12 to 15 cars, otherwise, drivers are forced to park on private property or along the side of the road. Adding parking to the park was one of three goals indicated in the MacKaye Harbor Road relocation feasibility study.

The study is currently just a draft, but will be finalized sometime this week, according to Wilbur. That does not mean, however, that any decisions about the relocation of the road will be made or that construction will begin any time soon.

“It’s a very long process, and so that is our recommended long-term solution; however, in the interim we need to be able to project the erosion and sea level road,” said Wilbur, adding that the relocation of Cattle Point Road on San Juan Island took 15 years to complete from start to finish.

Though this interim solution will discourage cars from parking dangerously or on private property, not everyone is supportive of the plan.

“We have gotten some comments. People are not very excited about the idea,” said Thompson. “I think people are worried there will be tree removal.”

Thompson said that the new stalls were designed to not require removal of any trees.

Other residents have voiced concern over the safety of the parking given that the road has been closed to one-way. Wilbur said that there are four concepts suggested in the MacKaye Harbor Road Relocation feasibility study on how to handle the parking situation. The study suggestions will be long-term solutions to the parking traffic and will be decided over time while the proposed changes that the county will begin working on soon are interim measures.