Plans for Reiter Foothills upset off-road users

MONROE — State officials could be in for a bumpy ride as they try to sell the off-road community on a plan to redevelop Reiter Foothills.

Officials want to win public support for the plan, but they are braced for some resistance during a public meeting in Monroe tonight.

“People will tend to be skeptical of government to begin with,” said Mark Mauren, an assistant division manager with the Department of Natural Resources. “They’re fearful of losing opportunities.”

Granted, riders can point to some clear losses in the future. As part of the new plan, the state will shut down Reiter Foothills on Nov. 2. Officials will use the full closure to rework the trails on a smaller piece of land.

Some in the off-roading community already are crying foul, including Ed Husmann, who was appointed by Sultan to attend meetings on the proposed action.

“I think the Legislature truly felt that they wanted to expand the use of DNR lands, and I don’t think DNR wants to do that,” he said. “At least that’s not what’s happening here.”

Reiter Foothills covers a large block of often steep land north of Gold Bar and Index. Riders created the loose-knit trail system for their dirt bikes and four-wheelers during the past 35 years or so.

Those trails have the state concerned. Some shoot across salmon-bearing streams, officials said. Others wipe out vegetation along 150-foot swaths along creeks instead of shooting across at one point.

“You had a thousand people with different colors of paint trying to paint a picture there,” Mauren said. “It’s a mess.”

The state identified about 2,000 acres that they say are flat enough for use and don’t threaten wildlife. Off-road vehicle users will get about half, while the other half will be reserved for hiking and other recreation.

Historically unfettered access makes it hard to estimate the amount of acres currently in use, but all agree the plan will reduce access.

That has some off-road riders concerned. For instance, members of the Gold Bar Nature Trails Community Club, a nonprofit club, fault the plan, which will close trails that lead from the club’s property.

“We believe that putting Gold Bar Nature Trails ORV (off-road vehicle) access at risk is not in the best interest of our local communities,” the club wrote in a letter to Peter Goldmark, manager of the Department of Natural Resources.

Mauren said the club has unfair access from private property to public land, however.

“Their property values go up because they have direct access,” he said.

The final layout of the trails is still under design. The state intends on initially using $140,000 for building trails and bridges.

More could be done in the future, with anywhere from $8 million to $12 million needed to fully develop the land.

“That’s both the motorized and nonmotorized side,” Mauren said. “It could be less, it could be more.”

Assuming work can be completed this winter, the land could reopen to the public this spring or summer. Until then, locals such as K.C. Letterman are preparing for a change.

Letterman rides her horses at the site a couple times a week. She suspects the temporary closure won’t be popular, even though it falls during the wettest, darkest months of the year.

“That’s going to make an impact on a lot of people around here, even for that short time,” she said.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455, arathbun@heraldnet.com.

Hear it firsthand

The Department of Natural Resources will discuss the plan for Reiter Foothills from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Park Place Middle School Commons, 1408 W. Main St., Monroe.

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