County to Sammamish, citizens on East Lake Sammamish Trail: Drop Dead. County sticks with design, tree destruction

King County’s design for the Southern portion of improving the East Lake Sammamish Trail is 90% complete and despite indicating to Sammamish city officials that it would be more flexible, nothing in the design appears to be responsive to the City of residents.

In other words: Drop dead.

The Trail remains the 18 foot wide plan that has caused so much controversy in the Northern end. The Northern end runs from Inglewood Hill Road to the Redmond City Limits; the current Southern end under design, called Section 2A, runs from 33rd St. (the 7-11) to the Issaquah City Limits.

Despite the uproar over the County’s mowing down hundreds of trees, 33% of the trees in Section 2A will be destroyed and another 33% are at risk of being destroyed so the County can stubbornly stick to its design of a 12 ft wide paved area, with two feet of gravel on each side of the pavement and another foot of “clear” area on each side. The total, 18 ft, is equivalent of 1 1/2 lanes of the adjacent East Lake Sammamish Parkway.

City officials, finally waking up to the issues after totally acquiescing to the County on the Northern end, met with County officials. City officials were cautiously optimistic that the County would be more “flexible” with Section 2.

Looking at the design and tree retention documents, it doesn’t appear this is the case.

One of the bones of contention is the designation by the County of drainage ditches as wetlands, a highly questionable action. The documents now are calling the drainage ditches an “unnamed stream.”

The County’s Gina Auld, who is the Capital Project Manager for the Trail development, told me in a telephone conversation months ago that protecting the “wetlands” took precedence over tree removal. She didn’t mention “unnamed streams,” and looking at the plans, these appear to be the ditches that were previously characterized as wetlands.

I pointed out in the phone conversation that the Trail design could be narrowed or the alignment altered somewhat to protect trees and “wetlands.” Auld said “no” to this. After City officials met with County officials, the design remains the same.

Section 2A, from 33rd to the Issaquah City Limits, is the easiest section when it comes to either maintaining the County’s design or adjusting it. The Northern section was and continues to be problematic. Section 2B, north of 33rd to Inglewood Hill, will be the most difficult in terms of design, adjacent properties and environmental issues.

While most of 2A presents opportunities to make adjustments, the County’s design shows no flexibility. I walked the Trail recent, a portion with a homeowner, who remarked that the County agreed to move the Trail toward the Parkway in one section–by all of one foot.

The beginning of 2A, that portion from the Issaquah City Limits north to for a few hundred yards, is one of the most difficult portions. The County’s answer: take down trees instead of narrowing the Trail design for this section.

There are other sections of the Trail where trees are designated to be removed that appear midway between the Parkway and the Trail, and not even within the Trail railbed.

Of 193 “Total Significant Trees Assessed by Aborist,” 69 are designated to be removed, or 36%. Another 28% are at risk, of 65% of the “significant” trees.

Unclear is what happens to hundreds of other trees that don’t fall within Sammamish’s definition of “significant” trees. These include landscaping/privacy screening trees and other trees that may not have grown yet to the “significant” level. If the Northern end is the example, these trees will become kindling.

The Trail design is 90% completed and the County says the tree retention plan “could” change. Given the “drop dead” to citizen comments so far, I wouldn’t be optimistic about this.

The question is, What will Sammamish do about this? The City holds the permitting authority and it can withhold the permit. Will the City step up in a manner it failed to do for the Northern end and protect the environment and our citizens? Or will it bow to the County once again?

The tree retention plan may be found here.

The 90% design plans may be found here.

The main page of the Trail information may be found here.

9 thoughts on “County to Sammamish, citizens on East Lake Sammamish Trail: Drop Dead. County sticks with design, tree destruction

  1. I bought a 10 yr old house when I moved out here whose original ads referred to a “mountain view”…it was long gone when we moved in as the trees about a half mile away were growing 10-12 inches/year and now completely obscure the mountains.

    One thing I’ve learned living in the Northwest…you might miss a tree today, but there will be five to take its place in a few years. The trail, however, will be appreciated and needed for decades to come – as they have been everywhere else they’ve done them right.

    Can we find something else to get excited about?

    • It’s not about view, David: there are ecological considerations. The Trail stormwater runoff drains into the nearby Lake Sammamish. Wholesale removal of these trees will eliminate the ecological benefits of capturing storm water runoff for years to come. Lake Sammamish is already teetering on serious environmental damage.

      • That would be more credible if it had come up in then beginning, but the first months of this issue was everyone complaining about their own views and things they loved about their backyard…the lakefront property community is not a beacon of environmental stewardship (stances on the City’s plans to revise shoreline use regs. left a poor track record here). Time to move on from the NIMBYism and get a more comprehensive and long-term policy on what the City really wants/needs.

      • As said in my 18 page post about the whole trail issue, nobody comes off looking good. But there is no reason to continue past mistakes in the future.

    • So, your view is basically, because people didn’t object to all the unforseen damage the county would cause – and because the people should have anticipated that the county would have flatly lied in contradicting their own regulations around ditches and streams – that the time is passed? People should just accept the county’s trail of dubious legal merit (they assert things that they cannot backup with documentation.) and let the destruction of trees and property continue. How nice of you to throw away other people’s money.

      As to your potshot about the shoreline regulations. You should do your research. One of the principals in the “private” consultancy on the lake rules is now a member of the planning commission; even Ecology said they went too far in places.

      Get off your high horse and really understand whats going on.

      • Sorry, but from the outside, all we see and hear are the same people who made the implementation of any new regulations that limit their ability to do whatever they want on their shoreline property into a life or death issue now scream bloody murder about someone else doing exactly what they demand no one restrict them from doing. High horses, indeed!

      • David, since it appears you are from the “outside,” a little “inside” information might be useful. I was on the Planning Commission in 2009 when, as required by state law, we undertook an update of the Shoreline Management Plan. The process was controversial. Staff and consultants, as it turns out, fed the PC information that was incorrect, leading to decisions that weren’t based in fact. This did not emerge until well after the PC handed its recommendations over to the City Council.

        As we went through the process at the PC, many lakefront homeowners made suggestions for changes to staff recommendations. The PC adopted some in their entirety, some in part and rejected some. Even then, I felt the recommendations were too restrictive and became the lone dissenting vote (6-1) and created the Commission’s first Minority Report to the City Council over these issues.

        After a lot more public input to the Council and many trips to Ecology, Sammamish adopted a set of SMP rules that are still quite restrictive.

        What the County is now doing includes stuff that the homeowners would not be allowed to do under the SMP. Wholesale destruction of trees would not be allowed. Strictly adhering to a trail design instead of altering the design (ie, narrowing or realigning in some areas) would not be allowed. Homeowners would have to retain trees and reduce or alter impervious surface plans.

        I am under no illusions about the lakefront homeowners. Despite being the lone dissenting vote on SMP, I came under attack by some of these homeowners as someone who did not listen to them and worse. These particular homeowners feel privileged, entitled and are arrogant and in some cases downright nasty. But what’s required of the homeowners should be required of the County. And the City rolled over with benign neglect on the Northern end. To me, this is what is the issue here: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

        A few homeowners may still want to block the trail, but most accept its presence and I see many of them enjoying the trail when I walk it. But that doesn’t mean we have to have an 18ft wide design that’s big enough for a semi-tractor-trailer.

        I would also point out that most of the homes along the trail were permitted by the County before Sammamish was incorporated. The lot sizes, the home footprints, the proximity to the rail line, etc., were approved by the County. I can argue these problems are largely of the County’s making and now the County is giving a big Up Yours to those whose problems the County created by its sloppy permitting policies.

        Scott Hamilton

  2. You ask, perhaps, rhetorically, what will the city do about it. The answer simply (or perhaps simplistically) is nothing. From the outside it appears that the city’s efforts are too little too late, or we just don really give a damn, and will make noises like we do. I do not live on the lake close to the trail, but the mowing down of the trees (past and future) is akin to crime against sanity.

  3. Pingback: County cites “breakdown in internal communications” over ELST plan for Section 2A keeping semi-truck wide design | Sammamish Comment

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