Houses along 88th Drive SE are visible from the Powerline Trail in Lake Stevens. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Houses along 88th Drive SE are visible from the Powerline Trail in Lake Stevens. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Neighbors hold out on plan for new Lake Stevens trail

The city wants to build the Powerline Trail from 20th Street SE to Eighth Street SE. But homeowners have some concerns.

LAKE STEVENS — Dozens of Lake Stevens residents could soon have access to a 12-block paved trail dotted with parks, right from their backyards.

The city of Lake Stevens hopes to begin construction on the Powerline Trail sometime this year.

The project is Mayor Brett Gailey’s brainchild, in partial response to residents’ needs shared in a 2019 survey, said Jill Meis, city parks planning and development coordinator. A majority of survey respondents said they believe the city needs more pedestrian trails, and they want more parks within a mile or two of their homes.

“One of the problems we have is we don’t have a lot of sidewalks, but we’ve got a lot of walkers and runners,” Gailey said. “I saw that space as unused space, and space we can easily get turned into a trail.”

When this section of the trail is complete, the existing dirt utility road beneath high-tension power lines will be paved, connecting neighborhoods, picnic and play areas and a new dog park, from 20th Street SE to Eighth Street SE.

There’s one hitch: The city needs to acquire some easements.

The project hinges on property owners’ willingness to sign easement agreements. As of Jan. 12, only about 10 of more than 50 property owners from the Willowood and Quail Court neighborhoods had signed, Meis said.

Residents were invited to Zoom meetings with city parks and planning staff beginning in fall 2020, and again in spring and summer 2021, Meis said. The city shared early plans, with options for a dog park just north of Quail Court, picnic and play areas near the 20th Street entrance, and several designated parking areas.

The city of Lake Stevens could break ground on the Powerline Trail this year.

The city of Lake Stevens could break ground on the Powerline Trail this year.

Still, some residents felt left out of the conversation.

During one of the Zoom meetings, Quail Court resident Stephanie Steffan said city officials cut her off.

“And soon enough, they muted me,” she said.

She said she brought a range of concerns to the meetings.

For one, Steffan said, it seems like the land behind her neighborhood serves as a refuge for wildlife, like coyotes forced out of construction sites across the city. A popular trail and associated parks, she said, would compromise that space.

“Because of all these new developments being built, they’re confused as to where to go,” Steffan said. “And so they’re going back there.”

Steffan said families play with their kids behind the neighborhood, other residents throw balls for their dogs, and if the city wasn’t taking the property, she envisioned Quail Court residents planting a community garden there.

She and others were leery of bringing more pedestrian and vehicle traffic into their neighborhood. Street parking is already sparse, and some worried the easement may mean a loss of privacy. Their homes are already visible from the existing utility road.

City officials heard these concerns loud and clear, Meis said.

In response, the city included a wider natural vegetation buffer between the dog park and homes, and an additional parking lot along 12th Street to ease the pressure on homes near 20th Street, in the preliminary design.

In late November 2021, Quail Court residents received a letter stating they had to agree to an easement in their subdivision. The city valued each of the 33 Quail Court property owners’ share of a 5,500-square-foot field behind their homes on 88th Drive SE at about $10.

Willowood residents received a similar letter, stating that each owner has an equal $41.67 share in the easement through their neighborhood tract.

Property owners in both neighborhoods were offered $100 for signing the agreement within 30 days of receiving the letter.

If homeowners did not agree, the city could start the process of seizing the property through eminent domain, according to a Nov. 30 letter to Quail Court residents.

Local governments can seize properties if they prove that the use is public, public interest requires it and the property is necessary for that purpose.

In February 2020, Meis went door to door around neighborhoods that border the existing utility road.

The pandemic threw a wrench in the outreach process, Meis said. But the city still made at least three contacts, through informational postcards and letters.

Some residents asked if the city would add speed bumps on their road, citing concerns about existing speeding and the potential for increased traffic.

Meis said she’s happy to continue the conversation, recognizing public outreach was simpler in pre-pandemic times.

City staff could conduct face-to-face outreach with those using existing parks and lead in-person meetings, Meis said. Engagement is important for both planning and education.

The project is of personal significance to Meis, who grew up in Snohomish County using and loving the Centennial Trail.

Public spaces like parks and trails “raise quality of life, property values and provide equity — it’s a place you own just as much as anyone else,” Meis said. “It’s such an amazing thing that no matter your socioeconomic status, you will always have a lawn.”

Lake Stevens has about 171 acres of parks.

Quail Court resident Jason Waltman said he and his wife are “really excited,” but they don’t represent the majority opinion in the neighborhood.

“There’s mixed feelings for sure,” Waltman said.

Steffan said she wishes the city would just let the open space be.

“Seriously,” she said. “For years it’s been sitting back there. Nobody’s ever bothered with it. It’s for wildlife. Not for a dog park. … What part of this makes any sense at all? Because you’re just disrupting our whole neighborhood.”

There’s a popular dog park about a mile away from the one included in the preliminary design for the Powerline Trail.

A non-motorized trail connecting Lake Stevens with neighboring cities has been in talks for years, said Jim Haugen, Lake Stevens Arts & Parks Foundation secretary and former parks director for the city.

In 2019, the city signed an agreement with Marysville for the development of the Powerline Trail, laying the foundation for a future multi-city trail.

“The goal is to tie into the Centennial Trail and all those connections back to there,” Haugen said. “It’s huge — the Centennial Trail gets tons of use. What’s great about it is there’s no traffic, you’re not fighting cars.”

Marysville is leading the design effort for a piece of the trail that would connect Lake Stevens’ Powerline Trail with Marysville’s Bayview Trail. The two cities secured about $500,000 in funding from the state Legislature for the project design.

“This is an area that’s really growing in the county,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said. “It will be nice to be able to provide a walkable, bike-able trail — obviously for Lake Stevens and Marysville citizens, but also regionally.”

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A Port Angeles police officer cordons off an empty lot in Sequim on Thursday as law enforcement officials investigate an incident in the area. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Man arrested in Sequim, connected to homicide, has Snohomish County ties

A dead woman was found in Bret Allen Kenney’s home, police say. He previously attacked Snohomish County Jail guards.

A car makes its way through a winding unpaved section of the Mountain Loop Highway 15 miles outside of Darrington.
14-mile scenic stretch of Mountain Loop Highway opens early

The highway between Granite Falls and Darrington reopened to traffic on Friday due to good weather.

Britney Barber, owner of Everett Improv. Barber performs a shows based on cuttings from The Everett Herald. Photographed in Everett, Washington on May 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Cut this paper up and have a laugh at Everett Improv

The troupe’s new recurring “Boozie Newzie” show is based off clippings from The Daily Herald. Meta, dude.

HIdden River Middle School (Monroe School District)
Monroe school employee on leave for ‘racially insensitive language’

The incident took place at Hidden River Middle School. Also, police were investigating racist vandalism found at another school.

Svetlana Kravchenko appears in court for her sentencing Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett woman gets community service in 2019 fatal hit-and-run

Svetlana Kravchenko was required to stay at the scene after hitting and killing Te Nguyen, 83. Instead, she went home.

A tiny homes program that opened in early July began with each unit claimed and a wait list of 60. Here Patrick Diller, head of community partnerships for Pallet, discusses the Pallet Shelter Pilot Project on June 29, 2021 in Everett. (Katie Hayes / Herald file)
Everett marks $2.7 million in federal funds for homeless housing

With the American Rescue Plan money, the city’s small housing program for unsheltered people could expand to three sites.

WSDOT workers open up the Smokey Point Rest Area on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free coffee will be back soon at Smokey Point rest areas

Everett’s Silver Lake rest area for southbound I-5 drivers remains closed while WSDOT works on the facility.

Pro skateboarding competition coming to Everett in August

Street League Skateboarding’s championship tour will be at Angel of the Winds arena for two days.

Drivers heading north on Interstate 5 will take a detour from Highway 104 to 220th Street SW and back to I-5 this weekend during nightly lane closures for Sound Transit light rail work. (Sound Transit)
Light rail work closing I-5 North lanes nightly this weekend

Crews need to close northbound lanes between 220th Street SW and Highway 104. Drivers have two detour options.

Most Read