Brenda Bolanos-Ivory and her cat Piccolo, left, along with Gail Chism look over a section of cleared plant growth at Lowell Riverfront Park on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two Lowell residents feel the clearing of trees and undergrowth at the park is unacceptable. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Brenda Bolanos-Ivory and her cat Piccolo, left, along with Gail Chism look over a section of cleared plant growth at Lowell Riverfront Park on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two Lowell residents feel the clearing of trees and undergrowth at the park is unacceptable. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Trees cut down near Lowell Riverfront Trail to contain freeway runoff

Neighbors were concerned when they noticed felled trees. Official says the work will protect the surrounding waterways.

EVERETT — The Lowell Riverfront Trail is one of Lisa Weber’s favorite birding spots.

The Lynnwood resident and Pilchuck Audubon Society member regularly spends hours on the paths near the Snohomish River, logging new species she observes on eBird.

It’s why she was quick to notice the sound of chainsaws on a visit there earlier this month. One of the paths stemming from the main trail leads to a retention pond referred to as Frog Rock Pond on Google Maps, north of the Lowell Riverfront dog park.

A state Department of Transportation crew was cutting down trees and mowing grass around the wetland that was constructed about 23 years ago.

“Any loss of habitat for me is a big deal,” she said.

A tree lies on the ground at Lowell Riverfront Park on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A tree lies on the ground at Lowell Riverfront Park on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The crew cut down an estimated 150 to 200 alder trees around the pond, which is filled with stormwater runoff from I-5. Removing the trees will stop discharge in the pond from polluting surrounding natural areas, said Mark Renshaw, a maintenance and operations superintendent for the state Department of Transportation.

A permit issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency outlines how pollutants at the site should be monitored and contained to prevent harm to water quality and public health. Regulations call for the removal of woody debris taller than 4 feet because plant roots will breach the berm. At about 20 feet tall, the trees were well past that.

And the crew scheduled their work for October with birds in mind, Renshaw said. Most bird species in Washington don’t nest from September through December.

“Obviously we’re as concerned about the environment as everyone else,” Renshaw said. “It’s our job to protect assets in Washington waterways.”

Some residents of the Lowell neighborhood also expressed concerns about the work and why they weren’t notified.

“It’s a travesty,” said Brenda Bolanos-Ivory, a Lowell resident.

A person walks their dog along a path that was recently cleared of plant growth at Lowell Riverfront Park on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A person walks their dog along a path that was recently cleared of plant growth at Lowell Riverfront Park on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Bolanos-Ivory and Gail Chism, historic chair for the Lowell Neighborhood Association, met with Herald reporters on Oct. 18 to show them where the trees were cut down.

Renshaw said it’s not feasible to notify the public in every situation about upcoming maintenance around stormwater features.

“This is our state, as well,” Renshaw said. “We’re doing this for good.”

The state Department of Transportation maintains over 7,000 water and drainage features between Arlington and the junction of I-5 and I-405.

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

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