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County Council pauses Lord Hill Park equestrian parking lot swap

SNOHOMISH — The county’s parks department must hold its horses on swapping the equestrian parking lot at Lord Hill Regional Park to one with back-in angle parking.
In making budget amendments last November, the County Council directed parks planners to do more public outreach on the idea first. It released $50,000 to do the outreach and held back $129,000 in project funding until the department presents a County Council committee with something showing the plan meets the public’s wishes.
Parks spokeswoman Rose Intveld said last week that “we’re still in the planning stages and are working on hiring a consultant.”
The swap idea became public in summer 2022 as a late, unilateral edit to a larger trail plan for Lord Hill Park. Hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders all use the park, and the trail plan was meant to reduce conflicts between the three by designating who can go where.
In it, county parks planners proposed designating equestrians to a lot with eight back-in spaces.
Equestrians who trailer their horses behind pickup trucks widely object. Back-in parking spaces challenge even the most skilled driver in maneuvering a horse trailer and a few believe this arrangement could discourage some riders from using the park.
The lot equestrians use today has pull-through spaces. It was built specifically for equestrians’ needs, equestrian Pat Pehling said.
“Parks says the parking lot swap is being implemented to show the equestrian community that Parks is doing something to address the conflicts, but focusing only on a parking lot swap does nothing to address the many user conflicts elsewhere in the park,” Pehling said. These include conflicts with mountain bikers and also off-leash dogs that affect everyone.
Equestrian Scott Lee said mountain bikers will park their cars in the designated horse lot to access the trails, and sometimes mountain bikers have been uncivil to other users.
Intveld told the Tribune in 2022 that these safety concerns factored into why the parking lot swap was suggested, “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.”
County Councilman Sam Low said he worked with the equestrian community to insert the pause after hearing feedback.
Lee, a horse rider, said he has zero confidence the pause will cause parks staff to change its minds on taking a parking lot swap.
He suspects the county wants to push out equestrians by design to benefit the much larger mountain biking community. Biking is not a problem to him, but when biking is starting to “disenfranchise the equestrian community by taking away one of the best horse trail systems in southwest Snohomish County, that’s when I have a problem with it,” Lee said.
Going through with the parking lot swap that would require trailers to use back-in parking would be “the final nail in the coffin,” Lee said.
County continuing to study future mountain bike park
The county is studying options to place a dedicated mountain bike park in the county, and has about one dozen site ideas listed to use open space it owns.

There will be a community meeting Wednesday, March 6 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Longhouse at the Evergreen State Fair Park in Monroe.
The Tribune was given the wrong date for this meeting which ran in a Jan. 10 story. On Monday, Feb. 5, there will be a private stakeholder group meeting on the topic, not a community meeting.

Two stakeholder meetings and a large public survey took place late last year.
The county parks system has a deficit of trail miles dedicated to mountain bikes, county parks director Tom Teigen said at a prior Lord Hill Park meeting.



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