GOLD BAR — Hikers, cyclists and horseback riders can help shape the future trail network at Reiter Foothills during a meeting next week.
The 10,000-acre forest between Index and Sultan has been thrumming with four-wheel-drive vehicles and motorcycles since reopening a few years ago. Now, officials from the state Department of Natural Resources want to step up efforts to design up to 25 miles of trails for non-motorized use. There’s the possibility of tying some of those paths into the popular Wallace Falls State Park next door.
“We know people have been ready for us to move forward with the non-motorized trails,” said Brock Milliern, a DNR division manager. “They’ve had to wait a little bit longer than we had hoped.”
The meeting is planned from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Snohomish Library, with a half-hour presentation followed by chance to speak to DNR staff. People can learn about volunteer opportunities at Reiter.
More meetings are expected.
About 3.5 miles of non-motorized trails are available already, with another dozen being designed, the DNR reports. The agency aims to build out another 10 miles.
DNR closed the Foothills in 2009. A plan adopted in 2010 outlined a vision for accommodating all types of users.
The plan sets aside eastern portions of the forest for off-road vehicles, ATVs and motorcycles. Those areas reopened in 2012. Hours there expanded in 2016.
Those users are segregated from hikers, bikers and equestrians, who would generally use western portions of the forest.
DNR staff want to hear more about how to avoid conflicts.
“If we have a steeper downhill trail for mountain biking, that’s not going to be a mix-use trail,” Milliern said.
DNR officials expect to start an environmental review late this year and adopt a final plan early next year.
Reiter Foothills lies north of U.S. 2, bordering the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The land belongs to the county, but is managed in trust by the state.
Unlike a state park, DNR must operate Reiter Foothills not only for recreation and habitat, but also as a working forest. Timber auctions support budgets for schools, fire protection, libraries and other government operations.
“This is going to provide recreation,” Milliern said. “It’s going to provide jobs. It’s going to provide revenue for the beneficiaries. The fact that it does so many things is such a cool part of this story.”
A 187-acre portion of Reiter Foothills known as the Singletary harvest has been a source of contention for more than a decade. County officials had sought to save about 25 acres from logging.
An auction for the remaining area went ahead, but the sale was soon voided by a Snohomish County Superior Court judge after environmental groups sued to block it. The DNR committed to discussing the timber sale in more depth with the community. That process is ongoing, Milliern said.
In March, a divided County Council voted to rescind its request for the 25 acres. Their goal was to get timber money flowing to schools and other taxing districts, but that’s unlikely to happen right away because environmental studies for the timber harvest are no longer valid.
Reiter Foothills for hikers, cyclists and equestrians
The state is hosting a meeting Wednesday evening in Snohomish to launch the planning for hiking, biking and equestrian trails at Reiter Foothills. It’s set to take place from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. at the Snohomish Library reading room at 311 Maple Ave.