Equestrians feel sidelined in newest Lord Hill Park plan
The recently released final plan for Lord Hill Regional Park, the large recreational woodland between Snohomish and Monroe, again tweaks the trail system and reverses decisions.
Horse riders, though, took issue that they’ve suddenly found their northend parking area will be swapped to the lot that has back-in parking at an angle, an arrangement which equestrians say challenges even the most skilled driver in maneuvering a horse trailer. Some equestrians take this as a message the county wants to discourage them from coming.
The equestrian community represented the largest group of speakers during a public meeting last week with about 70 members of the public.
The final plan maps restore having a few dedicated bike-only trails in the west, such as Springboard, Third Eye and Golden Eye. Most trails in the westside are marked for all users, and Rogue Knight would be a hiker-biker trail.
The park’s eastside trails would be only for equestrians and hikers. All equestrian trails will be shared with hikers.
County parks department spokeswoman Rose Intveld said the parking lot swap is “to directly address safety concerns we heard throughout the entire planning experience, specifically from the equestrian community regarding conflicts with mountain bikers, feeling safe in their own parking lot, and how they can safely enter the park.”
The equestrian community largely considers this swap a mistake.
Intveld said the north lot could fit eight trailers, and the spaces would be the same size as what’s in the current lot: 20 feet wide and 55 feet long.
Security cameras would be installed at the lot.
“On average, we see about four trailers parking there at any time,” Intveld said.
The wide room is because tethering and preparing a horse to ride (tacking up) requires at least 10 feet of space around a trailer.
Multiple equestrians said the experience of backing in a horse trailer is nerve-wracking, and poses a challenge to even experienced people. Some avoid it altogether and skip parks with back-in parking, which is feeding into the perception the county wants to push out horse riders.
Backing in a trailer at an angle requires driving past the spot and then some precision getting the trailer into the spot, according to Penny Booker, an experienced horsewoman who’s trailered horses for 50 years. Angled-in parking is “time-consuming, and you have to be very careful,” Booker told the Tribune.
The county is sticking to back-in parking, calling pull-through not the most efficient use of available space at the proposed new lot.
“We have a finite amount of space and pull-through parking is not the most efficient use of space for this parking lot,” Intveld suggested people use the Tester parking lot for pull-through as it’s “ designed for large vehicles and event parking.”
Tester Road is a non-starter for horse trailer drivers who know the site, equestrian Scott Lee told the Tribune. Unless it’s guaranteed the south park entry gate is open, there’s no room to U-turn with a truck and trailer.
Equestrians would get a brand-new trail into the park. Observers said this would mean they’d be riding for 30 minutes to reach the equestrian-specific trails.
At the meeting, mountain biking neighbors who live east of the park gave disappointment that their access to ride in is being cut off.
Other mountain bikers lamented that trails great for novice bikers in the east, such as Red Barn and Easy 8, will be turned hiker-only.
Equestrians noted that the designated trails for them no longer loop back, but instead run into hiker trails. Some also lamented losing the three southwest trails that touch the Snohomish River: Riverside and the fishing access trails.
The county studied environmental impacts and trail conditions.
About 3.5 miles of trails will be closed off. Some are because they’re near critical areas. The Boardwalks in the north end would be eliminated because this trail section is built in critical areas.
The county’s department head for parks, Tom Teigen, said they’ve requested a $500,000 county appropriation to study multiple sites for the county to develop a dedicated mountain bike park. “We learned we are lacking mountain biking mileage,” he said.
Some equestrians took Teigen’s focus on bikes as an insult.
“Tom Teigen and possibly (County Executive) Dave Somers have made it obvious they want to make (the county) a mountain bike destination and chase us off our trails,” Lee told the Tribune.
The Lord Hill final plan “took the blinders off” there’s a county bias, he said.
Lord Hill is the nearest place for many to ride, equestrians told the Tribune. Outside of Pilchuck Tree Farm near Arlington, other popular places for trail riding are in east King County.
The conflicts come from how different people enjoy the park. More adventurous mountain bike riders pound through the trails as a sporting challenge, while equestrians saunter at slow speed. A frequent concern is fast riders can spook a horse.
Some equestrians claim more aggressive bikers have deliberately tried to agitate horses on trails.
County park planners sought to stop conflicts by reworking the trail map while cohesively accommodating bikers, equestrians, and the largest user group: hikers on foot, who the county says are 80% of the park’s users.
An early version apportioned dedicated areas of the trail network for each user group. A later version went the opposite, and gave hikers access to the entire trail system, including mountain-bike oriented trails.
Lord Hill Park got its name from Mitchell Lord, whose family homesteaded the land. It became state Department of Natural Resources property until an effort with legislators reconveyed it to the state parks system and, in late 1994, to county ownership.
An idea circulating in the community that the site was gifted in dedication for equestrian use, though, is unfounded.
Recent previous coverage:
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The county parks department released a final plan for Lord Hill Regional Park, the wide recreational area between Snhomish and Monroe, last week. Come to a meeting about it Wednesday, July 13 (link in story).
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SNOHOMISH — Multiple alterations to an earlier draft plan released by county parks staff in November for guiding Lord Hill Regional Park’s future has hikers and equestrians generally in favor and mountain bikers feeling burned.
In the new changes: Hikers would be allowed on all trails. One-direction trails would no longer exist. Bike jumps and berms would be flattened. Downhill biking would be less useable.
A recent meeting introducing these changes had more than 100 in attendance.
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SNOHOMISH — In surveying the public on whether to segregrate Lord Hill Regional Park by user groups, among other questions, approximately 700 people gave mixed views on the county's "Preferred Plan" proposals.
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Snohomish County Parks’ solution to reducing potential conflicts at Lord Hill Regional Park is by apportioning areas as specific to certain users in the county’s draft Preferred Plan, released last week. Other plans include better intersection controls and a new dual entryway to the trail system which separates equestrians from hikers and bikers.
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