MUKILTEO — From beach-goers wandering the Mukilteo shoreline to masked students returning to labs at Everett Community College, incremental steps toward normal life in Snohomish County are underway.
Children pointed toward a big seal swimming just feet from the shore this week in Mukilteo, as waves crashed into the rocky beach and a white-and-green ferry boat pulled into the terminal near Lighthouse Park.
Families played near the water. A slight breeze carried the scent of saltwater toward land. Everyone kept much more than 6 feet apart.
Tuesday marked the first day the park had been open in more than a month, since the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order went into effect. Many other city and county parks opened for daytime use, as well. Even so, many playgrounds and restrooms remain closed.
Outdoor recreation was included in the first step of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-stage plan to reopen the state. Boat ramps and boat launches also were authorized to reopen.
No changes will be made at the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Many trails have been quietly open, though parking lots and trailheads to access them remained closed this week.
On Wednesday, a small fraction of the Everett Community College student body was allowed to enter classroom labs for the first time in more than a month. The college will allow limited in-person labs to resume in five of its programs: nursing, Emergency Medical Services, the Firefighter Academy, medical assisting and phlebotomy.
Everett is among the earliest of the state’s community colleges to allow students back on campus, after demonstrating it was able to meet state safety requirements.
“They were well organized; they were well prepared,” said Laura McDowell, a spokesperson for the state Board of Community and Technical Colleges.
Students in the five programs will continuing to receive their lectures online.
Nursing students had been allowed into their labs earlier, on April 29, with 20 students in two separate rooms. Only essential labs have started back up, and class times have been staggered to reduce the number of people in one place. The labs are taught in Liberty Hall. Other parts of the campus remain closed.
In all, that means about 860 students are back at EvCC. That’s a little more than one-tenth of the student body for spring quarter.
“The campus is still closed to the public,” said Katherine Schiffner, a college spokesperson.
There might be fewer students and easier parking, but that doesn’t mean students can expect to arrive later and still get to class on time. For now, they are being asked to show up 15 minutes to a half hour early for health checks and hand washing.
Precautions, including social distancing and taking temperatures of students and staff as they prepare to enter the building, are part of the new daily routine. Masks or facial coverings also are required.
Some classes have been moved to bigger rooms to make sure there is adequate distance between students. Access to Liberty Hall has been limited to a single entry point.
EvCC has more than 8,200 students enrolled for spring quarter. That’s down about 10% from spring of 2019, but many students are now taking more credit hours, Schiffner said. Moreover, enrollment for high school students enrolled in the college’s Running Start program is up about 4%.
EvCC limited classes to 25 students per course for spring quarter. Some have been broken into labs with as few as 10 students to ensure social distancing.
Classes end in mid-June.
Back at Lighthouse Park on Tuesday, Cynthia Sarinyamas and her four kids were visiting from Redmond. They wanted to get out of their own neighborhood.
“It’s just a really great place for the kids to be outside, we can be here and not be near other people pretty easily,” Sarinyamas said.
Sarinyamas has been trying to take the children on one trip every week.
“We get in the car and drive somewhere, and the kids get super excited,” she said.
At home, she said, the kids have been working on art and science projects, and the family has started a garden. Sarinyamas mostly misses seeing friends and going to church. She wonders now, though, if it will be harder to find a solitary place to go outside, where the kids can get fresh air without being near people.
Brian Narruhn set up his truck to relax near the beach with his dog Milli, 7. She’s a pitbull-boxer mix. They live near the border of Everett and Mukilteo.
The pair reclined on of a sleeping bag under the shade of the truck bed cover, with all the windows open. They parked beside a walking trail, and peered out toward the water.
“Why sit at home when you can have a view like this?” Narruhn said.
He was grateful they were able to visit the park on such a sunny day.
“We’d be out fishin’ but I couldn’t find anyone to go,” he said. “The boat’s a little too big to do it by myself.”
Christine Bahk and her young grandson ate lunch from Ivar’s on a picnic table at the park. They live in Mill Creek.
For entertainment during the past month or so, they’ve been parking near Paine Field in Everett and watching the airplanes take off and land from the car.
She’s glad the park reopened on Tuesday, but hopes people follow the rules.
“I think it’s a good idea as long as people know to be safe and keep distance, and wear masks,” she said.
Nearby parks seemed to be less busy that afternoon.
A couple of families played on the beach at Howarth Park in Everett. Others walked their dogs off in the distance, toward the giant cranes at the Port of Everett.
In the northern part of the city, Legion Memorial Park near Marine View Drive was empty around 1 p.m. — on what was, technically, a school day. The big play structure there was still roped off with yellow caution tape.
Temperatures are expected to reach nearly 80 degrees this weekend. With warmer weather, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers urged people during a Tuesday press conference not to gather in large groups.
“We’re just asking everybody to maintain social distancing, be safe, be smart,” he said. “We really want this to go well.”
Parts of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, such as access roads, never closed, spokesperson Colton Whitworth said.
Buildings, picnic areas and campgrounds have been blocked off and will stay that way. Restrooms, ranger stations and visitor centers are also inaccessible. It’s not clear yet when everything in the forest will reopen.
“We hope that by the end of May, trailheads and developed recreation sites will start to reopen,” Whitworth said. “Visitor centers are likely to stay closed.”
Some campsites will not be available until at least June 5, and group campsites are expected to stay closed for the season, until September.
Each winter a section of the Mountain Loop Highway is closed between Darrington and Granite Falls. Crews were still working to reopen that stretch of road.
People can access trailheads by leaving vehicles outside of parking areas, but should not stay if there appears to be a lot of people, Whitworth said.
“We strongly discourage anyone from trying to access any crowded trail and to follow social distancing guidelines,” he added. “Overcrowding can restrict access to first responders when emergencies happen.”
Herald writer Eric Stevick contributed to this report.