Everett wetland park to see improvements after neglect

EVERETT — A cherished local wetland is getting a face lift and possibly a new caretaker after nearly two years of misuse.

The past few weeks, the gates have been closed to the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary near Paine Field. Snohomish County workers have been giving the wetlands, and its parking lot, some extra care as spring draws near. A change in management is also on tap.

The Snohomish County Council will hold a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday over a plan to fund the salary for a park ranger, who would oversee Narbeck. The three-quarter-time position would cost $57,641.

The request is due to a “lack of public parking access, increased vandalism and nuisance issues at the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary,” according to county documents. The issues have meant “a loss of use of Narbeck by the public.”

The wetlands is in the 6900 block Seaway Boulevard, across the street from the Boeing Co.’s engineering complex and Fluke Corp. Over the past couple of years, Narbeck’s parking lot has been taken over by local workers. Some leave their cars all day. Others would drive over from nearby businesses like Boeing for a smoking break. Boeing prohibits smoking on its premises.

The result: People wanting to visit Narbeck — to walk the trails or watch the wildlife that live there — couldn’t find parking in the wetlands’ lot. Regular Narbeck visitors Joan Douglas and Debbie Schols told The Herald last November that they began noticing the overabundance of cars in the parking lot more than a year ago.

“We thought we’d see lots of people on the trail but we didn’t,” Schols said.

Instead, the two women said, they saw people park their cars, gather their briefcases and walk up the road to Boeing. The company has been boosting jet production and, therefore, employment, since 2010 and transferred 900 engineers to Everett from Renton that year.

Schols and others complained about the parking and smoking to officials at Paine Field, which owns Narbeck. The airport established Narbeck in the late 1990s to mitigate damage when an addition was made to Paine Field.

On Friday, Paine Field Director Dave Waggoner said the airport and county parks department will work together on Narbeck. They’re seeking county approval for a park ranger, who will have police authority, to keep an eye on the parking and smoking problems that have plagued the wetlands. The airport and parks department are working with the County Council to develop a no-smoking policy for Narbeck, Waggoner said.

For its part, Boeing has opened parking to employees at its activity center, about a mile and a half up Seaway Boulevard, said Elizabeth Fischtziur, company spokeswoman. A shuttle transports workers to and from the lot. Over the course of 2013, Boeing also will consider reconfiguring or expanding existing parking lots as well as its van pool options, she said.

Over the past several weeks, the county has been giving Narbeck a bit of a makeover. Crews have re-striped the parking lot, cleaned up the park shelter and restored some of the interpretive signs.

“It really looks a lot nicer,” Waggoner said.

Waggoner wasn’t sure how soon Narbeck will re-open. That decision will be made after the public hearing this week.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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