‘The Pit’ crew

By KARL SCHWEIZER

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE – On sunny Saturdays in the past, the more than 140 acres of sandy ground collectively dubbed "The Pit" would have been buzzing with motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicles, roaring over dunes and splashing through the creek that runs through its center, all the while dodging a minefield of rusted hulks, tires and abandoned appliances.

This latest Saturday, about 60 volunteers struggled to repair the damage that years of illegal cycling and dumping have done to these several properties that lie just north of 116th Street west of I-5.

They labored amid uncanny silence, the result of a crackdown by Snohomish County Sheriff’s officials and property owners that began in April, when deputies started citing anyone caught trespassing on what is private property.

"There’s been a dramatic reduction (in illegal riding)," said David Meyering a community services officer with the sheriff’s office.

Meyering was out with several young sheriff’s office Explorers removing some of the garbage left at The Pit over the years and dumping it into two large dumpsters loaned for the effort by Snohomish County public works.

"The word has gotten out that we’re not going to tolerate abuse of the environment," he said.

That was welcome news to Walt Campbell and Kathy Elliott, two of the eight siblings who inherited 56 acres of The Pit in 1995. Saturday, as they helped remove more than 900 tires and dozens of rusted, abandoned vehicles, they recalled how difficult it used to be to stop riders from tearing up their property.

"I’d be talking to somebody, telling them to stay off, and others would ride in right behind me," said Elliott, who lives in Tacoma. "My daughters and I took videotape of the cars that were parked here and we got mooned."

The family piled tires across property entrances to stop riders. They were moved. They piled logs across the entrances. Those were cut apart. They parked vehicles in the way. They were dragged aside, said Elliott.

What has worked are concrete barriers laid around the properties, vigorous ticketing of anyone found trespassing, and a media campaign informing riders that The Pit is no longer open, Campbell said.

The next steps are to clean up the trash left in the area, and later, to replant vegetation around a portion of Quilceda Creek that runs through The Pit, Campbell said.

The cleanup and replanting effort is spearheaded by the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force, a nonprofit group trying to restore the creek’s runs of trout and coho, chum and chinook salmon.

But all the groups involved will have to keep up their guard to prevent bikers from returning to ruin the effort, apparently. Task force volunteer Donna Layden-Felix was picking up trash when she noticed some motorcycles roaring onto the property.

"I asked them, did they own the property?" she said. "They said they hadn’t seen the (no trespassing) sign, so I showed it to them."

You can call Herald Writer Karl Schweizer at 425-339-3452or send e-mail to

schweizer@heraldnet.com.

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