Misunderstanding the ELST issues

The Sammamish City Council chamber overflowed into the waiting room and it was standing room only as scores of people got up to testify about King County’s development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

It’s clear from the comments that there is a misunderstanding on the part of some over the underlying issues.

Just as the chamber was packed with property owners and members of the Sammamish Home Owners, the place was clearly packed with bicyclists, including the Cascade Bicycle Club. The property owners are largely concerned with legalities, encroachments and heavy-handed tactics of King County. The bicyclists and some walkers, including former Sammamish City Council member Mark Cross, are concerned with having the 18 ft wide design for safety reasons.

Many took issue with suggestions to narrow the trail in some locations and for various reasons. What comes across clearly, for anyone willing to watch nearly two hours of comments on the City’s webcast of the Council meeting, is that those advocating the 18 ft wide design, don’t understand the unique issues involving ELST.

Those supporting the 18 ft wide design (with the corollary that they oppose narrowing the trail) don’t get that the suggestions of narrowing the trail aren’t talking about narrowing miles and miles of the trail. Those suggesting narrowing the trail, and I’m one of them, do so only to accommodate the unique physical constraints (principally in Section 2B, from 33rd Way [the 7-11] to Inglewood Hill Road, and principally at the Southern end of 2B through the Mint Grove area and the stretch south of Mint Grove); and for environmental reasons where sensitive areas would otherwise be impacted.

The suggestions to narrow the trail are very targeted and specific–not, as those opposing the idea seem to believe–the entire stretch of 2A and 2B.

These are important distinctions that were ignored by the pro-18 ft crowd.

As for the City and County staff presentations, they were disappointing compared with information I received in my meetings with Laura Philpot, assistant City Manager, and Kevin Brown, director of King County Parks. These meetings were far more detailed and far more satisfying than the public statements Tuesday. My meetings were off the record, at my suggestion, to encourage candor. This may be part of the problem vis-a-vis Tuesday. The City didn’t want to beat up on the County in a public forum, a view I can appreciate. But with an overflow, standing-room-only crowd and people watching on TV, the citizens need reassurance that the City is fully engaged and prepared to play hardball to protect the interests of the property owners and of the environment.

I believe the message came through that the City is far more engaged than on Section 1 (which wouldn’t be hard). What wasn’t said, and which I can’t go into given the ground rules of my conversation with Philpot, is the power the City believes it has to prompt changes–which the County is well aware of. But the public doesn’t have this understanding.

As for Brown’s presentation, I thought it was weaker than it could have been. Pointing to the Northern section and saying the County saved this tree or that tree (in the singular) isn’t very impressive. But then, it’s obvious the County is playing from a weak hand on the Northern section in the court of public opinion.

Time spent discussing 175 miles of County trails was nice but of little interest to the issues at hand. Having walked 2A last week with Brown, I came away favorably impressed but, as I wrote yesterday and said during Public Comment, I still think it falls short on some environmental issues.

The City and County have a long way to go with the property owners in Section 2.


4 thoughts on “Misunderstanding the ELST issues

  1. So how is a half mile of narrowed trail not a safety problem if a 3-5 mile stretch is as well? Is it necessary to suggest cyclists aren’t clever enough to grasp the “real” issues that you care about and theirs are inconsequential?

    • If they are clever enough to grasp the issue, then they simply don’t care. Don’t know which is worse. I really wonder how many have actually been through Section 2.

    • I’m just entering the fray and trying to catch up with the history on this subject, but don’t the bicyclists have special lanes on E Lk Samm Pkwy? Why do they need to ride on the trail at a fast enough speed that they require special consideration? Why would it be more important for the City to prioritize yet another path for bicyclists, than to protect property owners rights (ya know, those horrible people who own very expensive land that generates good revenue for the City).

      It would be ideal to meet the needs of bicyclists, but if sacrifices are needed because of the land and terrain constraints, their need to travel fast is the one that should have less priority.

  2. Pingback: Blog Post Covering Sammamish City Council Meeting From March 3rd | Sammamish HomeOwners

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