Mukilteo begins mapping out future of Japanese Gulch

MUKILTEO — Volunteers begin their work later this month on planning the future public uses in Japanese Gulch park. One of the group’s first steps is getting a better idea of the land and its trails.

The 140 acres of park land is long and narrow. Its main entrance is at the corner of 44th Avenue W. and 76th Street SW near Paine Field. The dog park is downhill, and the park continues below Mukilteo Boulevard and includes a parcel of waterfront property overlooking Possession Sound.

Most of park’s forested land had been privately owned, but for more than 30 years was treated as a public park. A spaghetti-like system of trails sprang up, built by the hikers and bicyclists who used the area.

“One of the concerns that has been expressed by the city is they think there’s too many trails in there,” said Richard Emery, a member of the committee charged with developing a plan for the park’s future. “One of the topics for discussion is ‘What is the right number of trails and where do you want them to be?’” he said.

Some of the trails were developed decades ago, before thinking about wetlands and sensitive slopes evolved, he said. “We want to be respectful of the environment.”

Yet the group should find a way to include a variety of activities in the park, he said. One of the reasons government officials were persuaded to set aside money for its preservation is the wide variety of uses people enjoy there, such as hiking, biking, jogging and off-leash dog areas.

“Because it was a park that touched so many people in so many ways, it became a reality for us all,” Emery said.

Jennifer Berner, the city’s recreation and cultural services director, said the work of developing a plan for the park will take about a year. The park property was pieced together over the years. The biggest chunk, 98 acres, was purchased with money set aside for conservation uses, she said.

“Some pieces of property don’t have any restrictions on them, others do,” she said. For example, playgrounds would be allowed in the areas bought for conservation but ball fields would not.

The city has awarded a $40,000 contract to Barker Landscape Architects to help develop the plan. The Seattle firm also worked with the city on development of phase 2 of the city’s Lighthouse Park.

“We want to take into consideration the needs of all (the park’s) visitors and what the city is doing to provide an enjoyable, safe experience,” said NicMorin, the firm’s project manager for Japanese Gulch. Some have suggested making the upper part of the Japanese Gulch trail near its main entrance accessible to those with disabilities, said Kristin Kohorst, another member of the park planning group.

“I’m very excited for this first meeting,” she said. “I’m curious to hear what other ideas, other perspectives, people have.”

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

Gulch meeting

The first Japanese Gulch sub-committee meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27 in the council chambers at Mukilteo City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way. The meetings are open to the public.

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