Reading comments on this blog about the latest East Lake Sammamish Trail events, prompted by a mass email campaign generated by the Cascade Bicycle Club, displays a real lack of understanding about the issues involved.
The emails created by the Club don’t surprise me: all they care about is bicycling and nothing else. Some of their members don’t even follow the Rules of the Road while biking on streets, let alone respect the unique issues involved in developing the ELST. Their self-centered myopia is long-standing.
The Club strikes me as particularly hypocritical because most of the time, the bicyclists prefer the streets and roads to the trails.
But the comments from some of those who live in Sammamish and who otherwise are concerned about local development surprise me. Many use the ELST and should see first hand some of the issues involved.
Let’s look at these unique issues.
First, most of the homes were built before the county purchased the right of way.
Second: Many of the homes were permitted and approved by the County before Sammamish became a city. The County allowed many of these homes to be built within the railroad right of way, creating the problem it now complains about and which are now in the lap of the Sammamish City Council and Administration.
Third: There are a couple of cases, which are most egregious, where the right of way now is staked by the County as going literally through the middle of a house–a house the County permitted.This destroys the ability of the homeowners of quiet enjoyment and value of the home.
Fourth: The County is unwilling to be flexible in the design of the trail, to weave it or narrow it around some of these problems. The County insists on 18-foot wide trail development when in some cases 12 or 14 ft wide in these special circumstances will work; and is unwilling to move the trail off the rail bed elsewhere within the ROW. There are solutions to which the County is unwilling to take.
Furthermore, the County can’t even be trusted to stick to the 18 ft wide design. In portions of the Northern section, the County went to 24 ft.
Fifth: there are environmental concerns that none of the people commenting are paying attention to: you all are focusing only on the property owner disputes. As has been noted by this column many times, large, mature trees are being taken out under the County’s plan and wetlands and buffers are at risk. The County’s inflexibility above comes into play on these issues, too. If the County was flexible, these problems could be solved.
Sixth, in Section 2B there are physical constraints where the trail can’t be wider than 10 or 12 feet because the County approved homes right up to the rail bed or because of topographic issues. Concerning the latter, the County proposes massive amounts of fill rather than sticking only to the 10-12 ft wide rail bed. This is ridiculous.
Environmental issues at stake
I do not understand the position of Sammamish residents who urge approval of the trail as proposed by the County when these environmental issues in particular are at stake. You especially freak out over developers removing trees, yet turn a blind eye to the County (which is nothing more than a developer in this case) unnecessarily taking out trees when there are easy solutions to preserving them.
You cite wetlands and buffers to oppose housing development yet turn the same blind eye to this for development of ELST. You demand that the City use these rules to prevent development of more homes yet ignore these issues for the trail.
This position by Mark Cross in the 2015 City Council election, and by one or two of the sitting Council Members, all of whom described themselves as environmentalists, was mind-boggling. Cross and one of the Council Members in particular, bona fide environmentalists, were adamant that the trail design shouldn’t be varied in Section 2A. Cross maintained the same position for 2B, citing federal design standards. I could only shake my head in wonderment and dismay at this position taken by Cross and the Council Member.
All but perhaps a very few of the property owners and Sammamish Home Owners do not want to stop the trail. They want the County to be flexible and respectful of their properties and of the environment.
Enjoying the trail
For the 20 years I lived in Sammamish, my wife, our dogs and I enjoyed the trail. In the summer, we used it just about every day. I absolutely support the trail, but there needs to be a balance with the environment, the trees and with the property owners for the problems the County itself created in many cases.
This is not about stopping the trail. This is about recognizing reality on the ground. This is about the environment. This is about King County being a bullying government. This is about protecting the rights of Sammamish citizens.
Sammamish government is doing the right thing in this case.
By Scott Hamilton