Changes to Lord Hill Park plan upsets mountain bikers

Reversal on exclusive-use zones, removal of trail pieces in plan

SNOHOMISH — Changes to a plan guiding Lord Hill Regional Park’s future has hikers and equestrians generally in favor and mountain bikers feeling burned.
The county’s plan now calls for giving hikers access to all trails. Four months ago, the county had proposed separating certain parts of the park to specific user groups as a way to reduce conflicts.
The park can’t be everything to everyone, senior parks planner Emily Griffith said at a county update meeting last week.
Two goals parks planners gave last week are to make Lord Hill Park into a more natural and a low-speed experience. It is the latest iteration of a long-term plan being developed to guide activity in the huge woodland park situated between Snohomish and Monroe.
One-direction trails would no longer exist. Bike jumps and berms would be flattened. Downhill biking would be less useable.
Mountain bikers feel marginalized and even singled-out. At the meeting, one said the changes seem like “an implicit ban” on bikes; a few said their sport is being excluded. Some complained the exhilarating elements to trail mountain biking would be taken out.
The county is thinking of arranging a decdicated park for high-speed mountain bike riding.
“Snohomish County Parks is looking at currently owned sites such as the undeveloped property off Dubuque Road near Flowing Lake and other areas for potential mountain bike amenities,” county parks spokeswoman Rose Intveld said.
The board president for the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Peter Sherrill, said his group is disappointed the county is deviating from the plan released for Lord Hill Park in November to create dedicated areas of the trail network for different user groups. At that time, its executive director Yvonne Kraus described that past plan “as balanced as it gets.”
The county affirmed other changes at last week’s meeting, too.
Diving Board trail, a bike-centric route, will be decommissioned this spring or summer. It cannot be adapted for hikers, county parks director Jeremy Husby said. A drop feature there is too steep, Husby said.
Third Eye Trail will be rerouted at the intersection at Rock Candy Bypass to make it safer.
Representatives from the hiking, nature-watching and equestrian communities are complimenting the changes.
The adjusted plans make for “a good compromise that should meet all users,” Garry Pagon of the Lord Hill Park Advocates group told the Tribune.
Kristin Kelly, a representative for the Pilchuck Audobon Society, said the plan balances needs.
“Nobody’s saying bikers can’t be there — just they can’t do high speed (riding) there,” Kelly told the Tribune.
Diving Board Trail’s constructors are disappointed the county will decommission this trail. The biking community built this trail about three years ago with permission from the parks department, mountain bike advocate Jenny Buckley told the Tribune by phone.
Turning one-way trails into two-ways could allow dangerous collisions, Sandra Baird of the Snohomish Student Mountain Bike Team questioned at the meeting.
Bike riders will start needing to anticipate that hikers now may be coming up a hill and adjust, Griffith said. Hikers comprise about 80 percent of the park’s users.
The county parks department is taking a full-picture look at Lord Hill, Griffith told the online crowd of about 100 people.
Griffith said park planners are also evaluating trails by how they’re used, instead of an earlier attempt to try to allot trails with parity to each group.
The county plans to release a final plan for Lord Hill Park this summer.
Multiple sources told the Tribune the county has committed to establishing a mountain bike park. Developing one could take three to four years, Intveld said.
Mountain bikes shouldn’t be pushed away from Lord Hill Park until that bike park opens, bike riders said. Sherrill, from the Mountain Bike Alliance, said the group is disappointed the county is deviating from its plan to accommodate multiple user groups.
The county is considering the environmental impacts which trails have on nature.
Intveld, from county parks, said environmental impacts always have been part of the framework for the Preferred Plan; Buckley, Pagon and Kelly all perceived this is a new emphasis.
Some also welcome it. “Lord Hill is comprised of many different species of birds and wetlands and streams,” Kelly said. “We need to keep the park something for the future, not a high-speed bike area.”
Separately, trail-building volunteers had recently halted. Volunteer work will be restarted again starting May 1, Husby said at the meeting.
The county cut the robust Q-and-A portion of last week’s meeting at the one-hour mark with 15 people still wanting to ask questions. Email us, county parks staff told the group.

Bike protest planned
A peaceful protest ride was planned for April 10 at noon leaving from the main north entrance parking lot (15011 127th Ave. SE, Snohomish).
“We are hoping to call attention to our cause and influence the parks to reconsider the changes they have decided to make,” Jenny Buckley said by email.


Contact reporter Michael Whitney:
or 360-568-4121 x202