Lord Hill Park plan stirs neighbors
Several horse riders along with a group of hikers in the distance take advantage of a rare sunny day on Sunday, March 19 to head out for a ride along one of the many trails in Lord Hill Park southeast of Snohomish. The 1,480-acre park is the largest in the county and is covered by trails that are used daily by hikers, joggers, equestrian riders and bike riders.
SNOHOMISH — Some Snohomish County residents are worried about the future of Lord Hill Regional Park because of a proposal to
boost mountain biking activities here.
In recent months, the county’s Parks and Recreation Department has hosted a handful of stakeholder meetings with represent-atives from different groups that have interest in the park — hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, bird-watchers, homeowners and others — as part of updating the park’s master plan. The plan goals, in part, suggest developing a 607-acre equestrian park in the southwest part of the park and a 337-acre mountain bike “skills course” in the northwest part of the park.
At one meeting, a staffer
from the Seattle-based Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA) reportedly told the assembly that the mountain bike “skills course” could draw 200,000 or more visitors to Lord Hill annually.
“That would destroy the park,” said Rick Reed, who heads a group called Hikers United. Reed thinks the park would be degraded by increased mountain bike activity, especially in wet and environmentally-sensitive areas such as “Wayne’s World,” nicknamed after the
area’s formative trail builder.
“That’s not a solid number,” said Amy Lucas, a senior planner with the parks department. Lucas said the 200,000 figure was an “off-the-cuff” remark by the
Yvonne Kraus, the mountain bike alliance’s executive director, walked back from that number and in an interview said the staffer was referring to how many people visit Duthie Hill Park in King County annually.
Duthie has a skills course, is heavily trafficked, and is now used mostly by mountain bikers.
The bike alliance helped design the park. It was cited by several stakeholders as a cautionary tale.
Lucas said the parks department is in the “early pre-planning process” and that “critical area” studies need to be completed before park plans can move forward. The timeline for those studies depends on available funding; the county has put in a $150,000 grant request from the state.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Lucas said.
Suzy Hannus, a Snohomish-area equestrian who said was
not invited to the stakeholder meetings, is concerned not only about the bike skills course, but what she perceives as a lack of communication between park planners and the community at large.
“They’re trying to railroad this in…” she said. “The neighbors around here don’t know about this.”
Lucas said earlier public
meetings would have been premature.
Hannus said she and a friend have formed “Preserve Lord
Hill Park,” a group that will try to disseminate more information about the park to more people.
John Stewart, a retiree who lives near the park and uses it as both a hiker and mountain biker,
said he was unaware that a
mountain bike skills
course was being considered, and he’s not in favor of it.
Stewart said there is a “pretty good balance right now” between the various user groups in the park. “The way the trails are now, (they) are safe enough,” he said.
Stewart, who has catalogued dozens of birds and animals in the park, said if even a quarter of the number of mountain bikers
cited by the EMBA staffer were to visit Lord Hill annually — 50,000 people — it would “drastically impact” the wildlife in the park.
Donald Heirman, a long-time park volunteer, hiker, and coach for the Snohomish Student Mountain
Bike Team, echoed a sentiment expressed by several people: It’s wise to keep horses and mountain bikers separate.
“We don’t want to scare their
horses and they don’t want to scare (our) bikers,” Heirman said.
Lucas from the parks department said a public open house to discuss
plans for the 1,400-acre Lord Hill Regional Park, which is located between Snohomish and Monroe, has been moved up to late spring and will be held in one of those cities. No date has been set.
“Preserve Lord Hill Park” was scheduled to host an informational meeting on Monday, March 20 in Snohomish. Watch next week’s Tribune for followup coverage of that meeting.
Loretta, Wayne, and the woods go a long way back.
Even before Lord Hill Regional Park officially opened in 1995, Loretta Albin and her late husband, Wayne, were tramping around in the forest there — making trails, photographing ponds and eventually compiling a booklet (with a companion
map) called “Lord Hill Regional Park Walking Paths.”
“This was supposed to be a nature park,” Loretta said recently. “It was not supposed to have a lot of noise….”
Loretta still lives near the edge of the park, in a
woodsy-looking house she
bought with Wayne in the late 1980s. Now she shares it with her son and extended family.
If mountain biking should
increase in the park, Loretta’s main concern would be the wild animals. “They need quiet to raise their young,” she said. “It’s okay to have an occasional (mountain biker) … but if you’re doing a lot of that, you’re going to drive the animals out.”
Loretta noted there are “really
large owls” in the park and “these (birds) like quiet.”
She clicked off the wild animals that have wandered onto her property—bobcat, coyote, raccoon, deer--and a few months ago her daughter-in-law’s brother saw a black bear. She wondered if more noise would drive more animals into her backyard—and her neighbors’.
An area of Lord Hill Regional
Park is dubbed “Wayne’s World,” reportedly named after her husband—although Loretta didn’t know that. Neither did
their son, Lloyd.
Wayne’s world — his woods — is a quiet, peaceful place.
The Albins hope it will stay that way.
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