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Lord Hill Park survey results show mixed view on creating specialty “zones” to separate users

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Lord Hill Regional Park is a multi-use natural space treasured and frequented by residents of Snohomish County. But as a destination for mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians, conflicts have arisen between the groups prompting concern from the community and action from the park.
Snohomish County’s parks department developed the “Lord Hill Regional Park Preferred Plan” which details several measures the county plans to take to allow park users to coexist and adapt to the growing number of users.
The county conducted a month-long survey on these measures that concluded on Dec. 10.
About 700 people took the survey, which the Tribune obtained the results.
The first proposal separates the park into designated zones for different activities, with some overlap for compatible groups. The eastern zone would be shared between hikers and equestrians. The southern zone, nearest to the Snohomish River, would have mostly hiker-only trails with some multi-purpose paths. The northwest zone would have some paths for both hikers and mountain bikers, and some specifically for mountain bikers due to the suitable terrain.
When asked whether the zone approach met their concerns, 38% of respondents voiced approval for these zones as how they are presented. Others approved of the idea of zones but thought the zones were imbalanced or could newly prevent them from accessing areas of the park.
A common concern among respondents who were both for and against the zones were the interactions between equestrians and mountain bikers. Many responded that mountain bikes do not have a place at Lord Hill as high speed riders can cause collisions with hikers and frighten horses.
On the question about zones, approximately 27% wrote comments taking issue with mountain bikers’ park use or bike riders’ speeds.
The county’s plan also calls for increasing signage and safety measures at trail intersections. Signs would indicate who yields to who and show specifically which trails belong to which group. Responses to these plans were positive, with nearly 60% showing support for the measure as presented, and many more people who are in favor offering small tweaks or bringing up the caveat that enforcement is necessary. Paradise Valley Conservation Area nearby has ample signage, which is something multiple respondents referenced; most used it as a good example.  
The plan also includes a map locating critical areas and aims to protect the undeveloped land that makes up 75% of the park. Park-goers greatly support preserving the serenity and natural beauty of the park by finding a balance between nature and recreation.
When discussing the allocation of trails along with proposed parking renovations, some equestrians, who make up the second-largest demographic at 41%, took issue with the lack of trail space along with the large disconnect between their designated trails and designated parking lot.
The parks department is currently considering several different options to expand parking from 35 spaces to 90.
Many respondents were in favor of expanded parking, with more than half voicing favorable opinions.  
Across each category, the top concerns of respondents were safety, reducing mountain bike speeds, rule enforcement, controlling off-leash dogs, and preserving the natural beauty of the park.
The next public input meeting about the Lord Hill Preferred Plan is slated for this spring.

Survey results by the numbers

[Q1] Visiting frequency: 699 respondents

[Q2] Recreation activity: 701 respondents

[Q3] Zones: 405 respondents

In favor of zones ~38.3% (155/405)
Has an issue with bikers/their speeds ~27% (109/405)

[Q4] Updated trails: 336 respondents

In favor of the plan: ~30% (101/336)

[Q5] Signs and intersections: 336 respondents

In favor of signage ~59% (199/336)

[Q6]Natural spaces: 290 respondents

Explicitly in favor of the proposed plan ~43.8%(127/290)

[Q7] Accessible entrance: 301 respondents

In favor of accessibility measures ~55% (167/301)

[Q8] Parking expansion: 298 respondents

In favor of more parking ~53% (158/298)

— Compiled by Caroline Carr




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