Marysville concerned about hunting on park trails

MARYSVILLE — The opening of duck season this month has raised concerns about hunting in the Qwuloolt Estuary.

The dike separating the 400-acre tract from Ebey Slough was breached last summer, making it possible for boaters to get into the estuary.

At the same time, Marysville is building a new trail from Ebey Waterfront Park down to the dike breach, and also on the east side of the estuary near the Sunnyside neighborhood.

“People duck hunt down there,” said Mike Elmore, chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

“They didn’t have really good access before, and now they’ve got good access,” Elmore said.

The Marysville City Council is taking up an ordinance on Monday that would tweak the language in the city’s definition of a park.

Its real-world effect would be to categorically prohibit discharging a firearm on city-owned trails and in public open space.

“It doesn’t have any impacts on the rights of citizens to carry in parks or use them” elsewhere, Council Chairman Kamille Norton said.

The ordinance wouldn’t affect people hunting from boats, she said.

“If they’re in the water, they’re not within our city limits,” she said.

It leaves open the question of hunting in the estuary itself, which is owned by the Tulalip Tribes. It’s not considered public open space in the city’s definition, but does lie within the city limits.

Marysville Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew said the city has been working with the tribes to work out a management plan for the estuary.

“They’ll have to govern it accordingly and work with our law enforcement to have them police it,” Ballew said.

The city regulation would not undermine tribal treaty rights to hunt on the land, Ballew said.

The city is hoping for an agreement with the Tulalips to set up some kind of buffer between hunting areas and the trail and homes, he said.

“It’s a project in motion in terms of trying to establish the best way to manage it,” he said.

The Tulalip Tribes issued a statement that said its wildlife enforcers only regulate tribal hunters, and regulations over nontribal hunters would have to be worked out between the city and the state.

“The Tribe looks forward to working cooperatively with the city to address issues and concerns at the Qwuloolt estuary,” the statement said.

The trail is paved, but it is not yet open to the public, Ballew said. The area is still gated, and the city is working on safety features, signs, landscaping and benches.

That work is likely to start up in the next month, and weather depending, the trail might be opened up by the start of 2017, he said.

Over the next two years, the city plans to seek funding from the state Recreation and Conservation Office to complete a loop trail that connects the west and east sides of the estuary.

“If we get funding for it this next year, we’ll work diligently on getting it completed by the end of 2017 or mid-2018,” Ballew said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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