EVERETT — City leaders want to complete a pedestrian path all around Silver Lake, irking some neighbors who dispute what property is public and worry it would increase crime in the neighborhood.
Once constructed, the paved trail would be between 6 feet and 10 feet wide and about 2 miles long. Work could cost over $900,000, based on early estimates from the city.
It’s envisioned to include a boardwalk on the southern peninsula and pave through parts of Thornton A. Sullivan Park in south Everett.
“When we can keep people close to the lake and see the natural beauty of the lake, we want to do that,” parks director Bob Leonard told The Daily Herald.
For years, the high price tag of the former proposal, around since at least 2008, kept city leaders from pursuing it.
That was until Mayor Cassie Franklin said she found help through the Mayor’s Institute on City Design she attended in 2019, which showed her ways to pare back elements and costs of the old idea, while keeping intact its purpose of improving park and shoreline access.
The project was a major element of Franklin’s State of the City speech in 2020, but the pandemic’s financial impacts prompted the city to shelve the idea.
She proposed completing the trail again in her State of the City address in January after hearing and seeing how important parks were to people throughout the pandemic.
Silver Lake is one of the city’s most popular parks, especially during summer, when the parking lot at Thornton A. Sullivan Park fills up and people cruise the area looking for a spot. Green Lantern and Hauge Homestead parks also abut the lake, and the trail would connect all three to each other.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for so long in the city,” Franklin said.
Four Silver Lake neighbors on Ibberson Drive spoke against the proposed trail at a park board and tree committee meeting in January, according to city documents. They were concerned about crime and disputed the city’s ownership of some property it would use for the trail through Sullivan Park to Ibberson Drive, Silver Lake Drive and Silver Lake Road.
Leonard said the city was reviewing the property ownership claims and would respond to them directly.
“We’re sensitive to the neighbors’ concerns,” Franklin said.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a trail advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., has not found that trails cause crime. On the contrary, it produced a video about how trails can improve community safety through gardens, lighting and use that encourages people to be along or on the trail and discourage potential crime.
“Generally speaking, over decades of research, there has been no generalized increase in crime at trails throughout the nation,” said Ben Kaufman, the conservancy’s trail development manager for the western region.
The Interurban Trail, the longest in Everett from 41st Street to 128th Street SW, isn’t known as a major crime hotspot to the Everett Police Department, officer Aaron Snell said. But parts of it in south Everett have had vandalism, including graffiti.
“Typically, the trails are well used by the community, kind of like a park,” Snell said.
Features along a trail can bolster safety, Kaufman said. That can include planting shrubs and trees shorter than 3 feet and lighting for good line of sight.
“If folks know there’s a lot of people using the trail at any given time, it’s seen as less of a place to get away with something,” Kaufman said.
Completing a trail around the 104-acre lake is a low-cost way to improve recreation opportunities and shoreline access, compared to building a new waterfront park, both Franklin and Leonard said.
They also didn’t see it as an attempt to rehabilitate the urban lake’s reputation. Snohomish County, which by contract monitors water quality for Everett, rated Silver Lake as being excellent based on 2019 data for algae, phosphorous levels, shoreline and water clarity. Of the four criteria, only the shoreline didn’t receive an “excellent” mark because only about half of the lake has shrubs and trees, whereas the other half is lawns.
“Any time you’ve got an urban lake, people wonder if it’s safe to swim in or not,” Franklin said. “But our team takes great care of this asset already.”
The project is in the city’s capital plan. Paving work could cost $900,000 and be funded through parks and public works budgets. At the earliest, construction could begin this fall. But if the weather window is lost, it likely would begin in spring 2022.
Everett’s parks department was looking to host an online project update March 30, when people could again learn and ask about the proposed path.