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Planning at Lord Hill Park to restart

Public meeting set for evening of Tuesday, Nov. 16

Doug Ramsay 2017 file photo

Several horse riders along with a group of hikers in the distance took advantage of a rare sunny day in mid-March 2017 to travel along one of the many trails in Lord Hill Regional Park southeast of Snohomish. The nearly 1,500-acre park is shared by joggers, mountain bikers, trail hikers and equestrian users, and sometimes the needs of these user groups collide. A plan seeks to give balance for each group.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The county’s parks department will host a meeting on Zoom on Tuesday, Nov. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. to present its “Preferred Plan” for Lord Hill Regional Park (LHRP), which is located between Snohomish and Monroe.
A shortlink is www.tinyurl.com/LordHillParkMeeting to attend the Zoom meeting. To attend by phone, call 1-253-215-8782 and enter meeting ID: 988 2583 2465 and then enter the passcode: 140275.
The 1,480-acre park includes 32 miles of trails used by hikers, runners, equestrians, mountain bikers, bird watchers and others. Controversy has surfaced in recent years because various user groups — and their perceived needs — sometimes come into conflict.  
Some conflict occurs because more mountain bikers are using the park.
“We’re looking for a slow, quiet nature experience in the park,” said Chuck McArthur, an equestrian and board member for the group Lord Hill Park Advocates. “We’re worried about the high-speed aspects of mountain biking in the park.”    
Pilchuck Audubon Society member Kristin Kelly echoed those sentiments. She said there is a fear among some park users that, as time goes on, “more and more bikes will come in.”
“I represent more of the environmental aspect of the park,” including people who are interested in protecting wildlife and the habitat, Kelly said.     
Since 2016, the county parks department has held occasional meetings with representatives of the different “stakeholder” groups and held public hearings to listen to concerns. The most recent stakeholder meeting was Nov. 3 via Zoom and was attended by McArthur, Kelly and nearly 20 other stakeholders, plus Parks staff and consultants.  McArthur said he thought Parks had “come up with an OK plan,” but is concerned about how it will be implemented.
“Their plans aren’t always taking into account the basic incompatibility of bikes and horses,” McArthur said. He related a recent incident while riding in the park when his horse suddenly encountered a mountain biker coming around a blind corner and reared. The horse nearly fell off the edge of a cliff, he said, and he had to bail off.
Some stakeholders have expressed frustration that an impact study required by the 1996 Master Plan on the impact of mountain biking on the park was never completed.
“They’vae never done that study,” said hiker Rick Reed. “Why do they (the county parks department) not want to do an impact study?”  
According to County Parks data, over 80 percent of Lord Hill Park users are hikers.
Reed has been a vocal critic of both County Parks and biking organizations, whom he contends have worked together to promote mountain biking at Lord Hill Park hoping to bring in revenue—and more bikers—to the popular county park.  
The County Parks website and a mountain biking association spokeswoman disagree.     
The website reads that the park “is planned to remain free for the public to use and is not being turned into a monetized bike-only park. County officials and park staff are continuing the Preferred Plan process to preserve LHRP as a multi-use public park for present and future generations.”
Yvonne Kraus, with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, dismissed the “fear mongering.” Kraus says there are no plans to turn Lord Hill Park into a mountain bike park.
“We want to see a balanced, sustainable trail plan,” she said.
In an emailed response to questions submitted by the Tribune, County Parks spokeswoman Rose Intveld wrote that “an impact study about mountain bikes is not in the scope of this current Preferred Plan Process. Any new trail alignments or trails that have been identified as trails of concern will be evaluated as critical areas.“  
Intveld also wrote that some trails have been “reclassified as bike-only trails,” but did not clarify what “modifications” had been made to bike trails. Some stakeholders say berms and jumps have been added, which increase bike speed, and want them removed.
Kelly, from the Audubon Society, says the current process “feels very staff-driven” and regrets that the County Council does not have a voice in it. 
If County Parks were using a Master Plan process, instead of a Preferred Plan, the council would have a say in what happens to Lord Hill Park, she said.
County contact
For questions, the listed contact is senior park planner Emily Griffith, emily.griffith@snoco.org or 425-388-6620.

 

  

 

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