The former Browne Lumber Co. site on Spring Street will become a lot for paid parking, operated by Dan Ward of San Juan Transit.
The lot will have about 40 spaces. The Town of Friday Harbor will resurface the parking area with gravel; in exchange, Ward will conduct a parking needs survey for the town.
Ward expects to have the lot open for three months beginning July 15 — undoubtedly a welcome relief during the height of the tourism season. He proposed the parking lot plan to the Town Council June 19.
“It’s always a problem with parking,” said Nancy Hanson, owner of The Toy Box and president of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce. “If you don’t have a (long-term) place to park, you have to move your car every two hours.”
The site has long been eyed as a parking area because of its central location downtown. As mayor, Gary Boothman led a long campaign for the town to purchase the site. Boothman envisioned public parking, a visitor information center, restrooms, and trails connecting to Blair Avenue and Second Street. Town officials and the Browne family could never agree on a price.
The former mayor was glad to hear that public parking — albeit paid — is in the works.
“I thought somebody should step forward and do it, but I didn’t see anybody step forward and take an interest,” he said of earlier efforts to create public parking at that site. “It’s more important now. I’ve been downtown and talked to real estate agents, and I know how they take up a lot of the parking space downtown. It’s a real challenge and it’s not going to be any less of a challenge.”
Boothman said that there will be an increased demand for parking when the commercial/residential development on Front Street is finished.
“More and more people are going to need parking and it’s not going to be there.”
Long-term parking is also viewed as a necessity by proponents of a Bellingham-Friday Harbor passenger ferry service; passengers going to Bellingham are going to need a place to leave their vehicles.
— With assistance by Talia Loucks, intern