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Planners urge compromise in Japanese Gulch improvements


Last updated 6/3/2015 at Noon

An eventual plan for improving recreational opportunities in Japanese Gulch may very well rest on people’s ability to embrace a concept that has become too dirty in today’s world: compromise.

On Saturday, May 30, about two dozen people attended an open house at Mukilteo City Hall to discuss alternatives for a master plan on development of the gulch.

Compiling input from special interest representatives and interested citizens, suggestions from city planners and landscape architects, and the results from a citywide survey, a Seattle landscape architecture firm presented a range of options that could give nearly everyone some of what they want, but no one all that they’d like.

Nic Morin of John Barker Landscape Architects said much of what many people would like to see in Japanese Gulch is already in place: a quiet, pristine experience that’s accessible from several trailheads and a variety of trails branching throughout the gulch from 76th Street to the waterfront.

Morin said gulch supporters can be proud of what’s been accomplished so far. “This project is born of victory,” he said, “preserving 140 acres of open space.”

But more community input will be needed to whittle down the various suggestions for further improvements or changes, Morin said.

For example, dog owners expressed an interest in seeing the dog park expanded, whereas other gulch users object to dogs off leash on the trails.

Some regular users want most of the gulch left alone, whereas others want bark, gravel or other trail materials added to improve conditions during the wet months.

Mountain bikers – many of whom have been active in trail development and improvement over the years – want all trails to remain multi-use, while some hikers want limits on the number of trails that bikers can use.

Seniors would like to see a senior center or multi-use building in the gulch for their needs, but few in the citywide survey supported that request.

Visitors would like more parking and better signage, while locals want the focus to be on Mukilteo residents’ use rather than attracting outsiders to the city’s recreational opportunities.

“There’s an overwhelming desire to enjoy the gulch on their own terms,” Morin said of the many who expressed their preferences.

“We have to resolve our differences and find common ground.”

That compromise may be necessary, if for no other reason, than to find funds for proposed upgrades.

Cash-strapped Mukilteo already oversees upkeep of several recreational amenities, including Rosehill Community Center and Lighthouse Park. It would be hard-pressed to find funding for Japanese Gulch, too.

That’s why, planners suggested Saturday, developers of Japanese Gulch should embrace the various users as partners as well.

Peter Cromwell, a landscape designer with John Barker Landscape Architects, said, “We don’t want this to be a huge 800-pound gorilla on the back of the city.

“The gulch’s potential users can be its stewards as well.”

A good example, Morin said, can be found at the Paradise Valley Conservation Area in Woodinville.

It has wetland, stream and forest environments that offer wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, horseback riding and other opportunities.

It’s nearly six times larger than Japanese Gulch and was developed “very effectively” on a shoestring budget, Morin said.

Saturday’s open house was a step in an ongoing process that will lead to a master plan.

Organizers urged as many people as possible to get involved.

“The more voices we capture, the stronger the solutions,” Morin said.

Jennifer Berner, recreation and cultural services director for the city, said they will continue to look for ways to involve the community, including repeating the survey that attracted 368 responses the first time.


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