Group to map out future of Japanese Gulch

MUKILTEO — For years, securing the land known as Japanese Gulch was a dream.

In February, the acquisition of the final — and, at 98 acres, the largest — chunk of land assured its future as a park.

But that left many questions about its future, which a 12-member group appointed to work on the park’s master plan will help determine.

“We’ll be looking at all the different types of uses currently in the park and what ones will continue and where do those happen,” said Jennifer Berner, the city’s recreation and cultural services director.

The members of the group that will help map the park’s future were selected by Berner and Mayor Jennifer Gregerson.

Members include representatives of groups interested in the park, such as those active with the city’s dog park; mountain biking and hiking enthusiasts; and members of the Japanese Gulch Group which worked for years to keep the land undeveloped.

The group’s first meeting is expected to be scheduled for early August. Anyone interested in following its progress can ask to be added to an email list and attend meetings, Berner said.

Committee members are Tyler Thompson, a mountain biker and Japanese Gulch Group board member; Carolyn Carlson of the Mukilteo Community Garden; Demaree Clay, representing the Mukilteo dog park; Thomas Little, a city parks and arts commissioner; Randy Lord, Mukilteo City Council member; Richard Emery, past president of the Japanese Gulch Group; Kristin Kohorst, Japanese Gulch Group member; Chris Mueller, senior parks planner for Snohomish County; Dustin Weller, a Japanese Gulch board member; Eli Klem of the Mukilteo Youth Advisory Council; and Susan Gereherd, a long-time gulch hiker. A member of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance also will be appointed to the group.

The group will help plan land use for the park’s entire 144 acres, which includes property acquired before the most recent purchase in February.

The park’s land stretches from the lower part of the gulch near the dog park to the top of the property near the Mukilteo Community Garden.

“Obviously, the dog park isn’t going to move, but how does that relate to the rest of the park?” Berner asked.

The park includes mature forest, steep ravines and wetlands. Wildlife spotted there include coyotes, mountain beavers, bald eagles, pileated and hairy woodpeckers, barred owls, coho salmon and sea-run cutthroat.

Japanese Gulch attracts a variety of enthusiasts, including hikers, bird watchers, dog walkers and mountain bikers. The citizen committee will help determine where areas in the park can have shared uses.

The city hopes to be able to open up more parking at the park’s main entrance near the corner of 44th Avenue W and 76th Street SW, perhaps by the end of this month, Berner said.

Until recently, most of the land in Japanese Gulch was privately owned, but it was considered to be and has been used as a public park by many people.

Japanese Gulch “is one of those jewels in the middle of a city environment like you see in other communities,” Berner said. “You think you are out in the woods somewhere. Those are very special places for us to preserve.”

Sharon Salyer; 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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