Lund’s Gulch Creek could flow freely to Puget Sound once again if a joint project by Snohomish County and BNSF Railway gets off the ground. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Lund’s Gulch Creek could flow freely to Puget Sound once again if a joint project by Snohomish County and BNSF Railway gets off the ground. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Railroad bridge would help fish habitat — but at a high cost

BNSF is happy to help restore an estuary at Lund’s Gulch, but it would cost the county $16 million.

MEADOWDALE — Snohomish County’s parks director calls it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

BNSF Railway considers it a victory for its business and the public.

Together, they’re trying to drum up support for a project to remake the railroad tracks that since the late 19th century have largely cut off the mouth of a salmon-spawning stream from Puget Sound. By building a new five-span railroad bridge along the shore at Meadowdale Beach Park, they hope to return Lund’s Gulch Creek to something resembling its natural state.

“It’s kind of a once-in-a-generation, once-in-a-lifetime deal,” parks director Tom Teigen said.

The work would aim to create a more free-flowing estuary at the county park just north of Edmonds. A 90-foot-wide opening under the bridge would replace the existing hobbit-size tunnel that’s often closed off during the rainy season. That could open up salmon runs — and provide year-round access to the beach for all patrons. That includes people with disabilities who might find the current tunnel impossible to navigate, even under the best of conditions.

BNSF, which owns the tracks, strongly supports the idea. The railroad has offered to build the two-track railroad bridge. They’d like to get it done by the end of 2020.

“The proposed bridge will allow for the separation of the pedestrian walkway and channel, while also helping to restore a small estuary east of our mainline,” said Courtney Wallace, a railroad spokeswoman. “This project is a win for the county, the public, the railroad and the environment.”

There’s a catch: The county would have to pay for it. At up to $16 million, it won’t be cheap.

The county has been seeking state and federal grant money, said Logan Daniels, a county parks engineer and project manager. That’s in addition to approximately $2 million spent over the past few years on study and design.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen offered encouragement Tuesday when he toured the area for the first time.

“It’s a great project, mostly because everybody is on the same page,” Larsen said.

The congressman identified the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, also known as a CRISI grant, as a potential federal funding source.

During the tour, Amtrak and freight trains whizzed by. The tracks sit atop a raised strip of rock and earth, roughly one story above the surrounding landscape. They’re blocked off by a chain-link fence and no-trespassing signs.

During construction, trains would be routed onto a temporary side track.

Several park supporters who live in the area joined the tour.

“It’s a gem in a very densely urban area,” said Barb Ingram, a neighbor who has helped guide the park’s development since the 1980s.

And, Ingram said, the county plan would make it better, both as a park and as natural habitat.

Joe Scordino, a retired fisheries biologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, knows the park well. He brings Meadowdale High School students there to teach them about fish habitat. They take water-quality samples and release thousands of salmon fry into the creek each year.

Endangered chinook don’t spawn there — they need large waterways like the Snohomish River, Scordino said. The species would benefit, he said, because juvenile fish could use the estuary for shelter. Lund’s Gulch also is home to chum and coho salmon, as well as cutthroat trout.

“This will be great,” he said. “One of the biggest problems for chinook salmon in Puget Sound is the near-shore environment.”

For now, bulkheads disrupt most of the natural shoreline habitat.

Meadowdale Beach Park borders the suburban street grid west of Lynnwood. The county bought the land in 1971 and opened it as a public park in 1988.

Lund’s Gulch runs through it, as a does a popular mile-and-a-half hiking trail. The park includes 108 acres, much of it second-growth forest. The city of Lynnwood owns more than 90 adjacent acres of open space.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald net.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks with special ed Pre-K teacher Michelle Ling in her classroom at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

A view of the courtyard leading to the main entrance of the new Stanwood High building on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Stanwood, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

About a dozen metal dinosaurs sit in the front yard of a home owned by Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 in Freeland, Washington. The couple are used to finding strangers in their yard and taking photos. Every year on their trip to Tucson, Burt and Mary bring home another figure  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Dinos on Whidbey? This Freeland yard is a Jurassic Park

These creatures from long ago won’t chomp or chase you, and you’re welcome to visit.

Maryville Getchell High School students Madison Dawson, left, Kaden Vongsa and Jenasis Lee, who made a presentation to their school board discussing mental health, lack of resources and personal stories of their peers mental health struggles. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Students plead for better mental health support from schools

Three Marysville Getchell seniors want more counselors and improved training for staff.

Parked tractor-trailers line the side of 40th Avenue NE on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Worker wonders why dead end Marysville road is rough and rutty

A stretch of 40th Avenue NE is mostly used for heavy trucking and isn’t in line for repairs soon.

Camano Island shooting leaves father dead; son arrested

Dominic Wagstaff, 21, was taken into custody late Sunday for investigation of the murder of Dean Wagstaff, 41.

Jean Shumate (left), seen here during a February 2019 school board meeting, will retire June 30 after 20 years at the Stanwood-Camano School District superintendent. (Skagit Valley Herald)
Stanwood-Camano superintendent to retire after 20 years

Jean Shumate has been at the helm longer than any other superintendent in Snohomish County.

Snohomish County Council delays education spending vote

The council is now slated to decide next week on the measure, which targets a pre-K learning gap.

Frances McDormand in "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures) 20210304
Masked in a nearly empty theater, a movie outing at last

Just four of us were in the audience for a matinee showing of “Nomadland” at Stanwood Cinemas.

Most Read