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.