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City launches master plan process for Japanese Gulch

Doug Ramsay photo,
Eric Smith (left) and Jason Jamerson, both of Everett remove a downed tree from a trail while Sally Osborn of Mukilteo (center) watches in March 2012. The three were part of a group of members of the Japanese Gulch Trail Committee that were clearing winter storm damage from one of the trails in the gulch.

MUKILTEO — Now that the city owns all of Japanese Gulch, the question is what can be done to improve it.
The city launched a master planning process for Japanese Gulch last week — essentially a road map on how the public wants the gulch to be.
By all accounts, city leaders emphasize the process will be an intentionally slow year-long process because Mukilteo wants to “do what we need to do and do it right,” city recreation director Jennifer Berner said.
The city also plans to hire a consulting landscape architect to overview the site.
The gulch is a well-used approximately 160-acre natural area that lies along the border of Mukilteo and Everett. Most of the land is within Everett city limits and Mukilteo is readying to ask Everett to deannex the land to Mukilteo.
Mukilteo hopes to draw in representatives from a large cross-section of groups to work on the master plan — a garden club, walkers, hikers, dog owners, the nonprofit Japanese Gulch Group and a BMX bike club. The BMX riders have caused a stir recently in the gulch because there are people concerned about big jumps built in the gulch.
An unknown person went into the gulch and knocked down many of those jumps after people in the community began questioning the damage the BMX riders might cause the environment, city administrator Rex Caldwell said last week.
At the same time while planning the gulch, the city emphasizes it’s not holding out a blank check to enhance the property.
The city is also drafting a maintenance and operations plan to outline the cost to the city to install and maintain any new features, such as trash service in the gulch or restrooms.
City Council members last week suggested keeping the gulch a “pack it in - pack it out” site, meaning no trash barrels.
The nonprofit Japanese Gulch Group also has sworn to give volunteer time to keep up the trails in the gulch. The extent of the gulch group’s role with the gulch now that the city bought all the land will be determined during the planning process, community development director Patricia Love said.
The city calls the master plan “a living document” ready to be molded throughout the process, city parks and recreation director Jennifer Berner said.
There are currently 2.6 miles of trails on the publicly owned pieces of the gulch and approximately five miles of informal trails on the property. The trail system could be eventually expanded to eight miles and connect to the waterfront.
Residents and the city pursued buying parcels in Japanese Gulch to make it public land the past nine years. 
A purchase and sale agreement for the last 96 acres of privately held gulch land began at the end of last year for $5.4 million, largely paid for with an accumulation of government grants the city worked hard to get.
Acquiring the biggest piece of Japanese Gulch closed the book on a grassroots dream that started nine years ago to turn the entire 160-acre gulch into public land.
The city plans to have booths at major events including the Touch-A-Truck event on Saturday, May 10 at the Rosehill Community Center and the Lighthouse Festival in September to let people give their input.
The full list of details and schedule for the master planning process is online at at this link (opens in new window).

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