Lord Hill Park plan sequesters user groups

A space for hikers. A space for horse riders. A space for mountain bikers.
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, a few trails would be marked just for bicyclists in the northwest, just for equestrians and hikers in the park’s eastside and just for hikers in the south and west. Most of the trails would be open to all users, and the central Pipeline trail system would act as a north-south spine route.
Using zones is not the only idea parks planners suggested for reducing potential collisions. One idea adds narrow gates before trail intersections at the base of mountain bike trails to force approaching cyclists and runners to slow down, parks planner Emily Griffith said. A gate like this is currently on Springboard Trail before it intersects with Westview Trail.
Another slowdown tactic diverts people through small, tight loops in the trail that require careful riding before arriving at the uncontrolled trail intersections.
A fourth idea builds two separate entryways at the park’s north entrance: One for equestrians and one ADA-accessible entrance for hikers and bikers.
People’s reactions were mostly positive during last week’s meeting where it was introduced. More than 150 people attended, and more than 50 park users spoke.
A shortlink to see the zoning map online is www.tinyurl.com/LordHillPlan
It designates 11.4 miles of trail for all users, 8 miles for just hikers, 2.6 miles for just bicyclists and 6.3 miles for hikers and horse riders.
“The Preferred Plan is a really good blend to keep access viable,” park multi-user Mike Niland said.
The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance supports the zoning idea, alliance board member Kelly Armstrong said. Its president, Yvonne Kraus, called the
map “as balanced as its gets.”
A few commenters yearned for simpler times just five to 10 years ago, before Lord Hill became a regional attraction for mountain bikes.
The bikes have changed the park’s atmosphere, these commenters complained. Bikes shouldn’t even be allowed to return Lord Hill to “a walk in the woods,” said Daniel Sloan, an experienced mountain biker.
But Lord Hill offers one of the few outdoor trail systems suitable for beginners and intermediate riders to build skills, speakers such as the coach of the Snohomish Student Mountain Bike Team said.
A large number of people who spoke at the meeting said incidents are rare and they’ve never experienced a negative interaction on the trails. The few who have, though, said people need to be better educated on how to use trails with multiple types of users. Equestrian riders are especially sensitive to their horses being spooked.
“I think horses and bikes can co-exist if there is training and education,” Marika Saarinen said. “We just really need people to understand horses are prey animals and can be a little squirrelly.”
The county parks department is asking people to fill a survey responding to the suggestions. A shortlink to the survey is also www.tinyurl.com/LordHillPlan
The parks department is working together with a Seattle-based consulting firm to develop this plan.
Another series of stakeholder meetings are scheduled in February or March, and the county wants to finalize the Preferred Plan by June 2022.
Separately, there are early discussions on expanding the north parking lot to fit more cars. When parking spaces fill up, people are parking on grass and areas of drainage swales, consulting landscape architect Tanja Wilcox said.
The parks department is using the Preferred Plan method, which does not require County Council’s involvement or approval, as a standard procedure that has less bureaucracy, Griffith said. It is not obligated to use the Master Plan method, which has elected officials involved in the final decisions, Griffith said.

To volunteer
Trail improvement efforts can be coordinated with Tony Trofimczuk, county parks recreation supervisor, at Tony.Trofimczuk@co.snohomish.wa.us or 425-388-6604.