Japanese Gulch News

The city now has half of a master plan outlined for the proposed development of park and open space in the Japanese Gulch.


Mukilteo City Council on Monday voted 6-0 to adopt a Japanese Gulch Master Plan for the first two phases of a four-phase plan to develop about 50 city-owned acres of the 300-acre gulch. It includes 5,650 feet of public trails.


Phase 1 is the ongoing development of the gulch north of 5th Street; Phase 2 is future development south of 5th Street. They do not include Burlington Northern Santa Fe right-of-ways or private properties, said Heather McCartney, director of planning and community development.


A proposal for phases 3 and 4 has not yet been drafted. Phase 3 involves 11 acres to soon be de-annexed from the city of Everett, and Phase 4 would focus on the remaining privately owned 97 acres of the gulch in Mukilteo.


Planning for the fourth phase will only happen if the city acquires that land, McCartney said.


The master plan includes a 30,000-square-foot fenced dog park in the meadow just south of 5th Street. Council has also agreed to further research the possible addition of off-leash trails.


“I have a certain wariness of dogs off leash, because they do tend to be territorial,” said Councilmember Tony Tinsley. “We ought… to be sure this is a safe thing to include in our master plan.”


Councilmember Linda Grafer is concerned with the proposed location of the dog park, because it could increase traffic congestion on the already busy 5th Street. Grafer suggested the park be moved to the purchased Everett land.


The meadow was proposed because “it is one of the only places left in the community,” McCartney said.


Washington Federal donated $10,000 to fund development of the gulch. The Japanese Gulch Group has set aside $600 to fund signage on the trails, which would include discouraging the use of private trails.  No other funds are allocated for Japanese Gulch.


Phase 1, which started in 2009 and includes the city’s fish-passage improvement project, is near completion. Two of the four phases of the project are complete; the last two are scheduled for completion by fall 2011, McCartney said.


A trail segment that overlooks the gulch’s new fish ladder is also in process.  


Partnering with the city, the Japanese Gulch Group plans to create a loop trail system and redirect existing trails on private property to public property.


The group also plans to work on undergrowth planting, the removal of invasive species and erosion control.


In addition to a dog park, planned public amenities include an information kiosk, trash cans, restrooms, a picnic area, viewpoint, and separated user trails, where possible.


Public parking is also addressed: Plans call for 46 parking spaces instead of the 15 spaces now available.


“The dog park group is going to help out with our group, and we’re going to help out with their group, so I think we’ve got the manpower to get this done,” said Todd Hooper, president of the Japanese Gulch Group.


The Parks and Arts Commission and the Japanese Gulch Group recommended the master plan.


Discussion during a public hearing on the master plan on Monday revolved around the addition of a dog park and off-leash trails. It led to a 3-3 tie of whether to include off-leash trails.  With a tiebreaking vote, Mayor Joe Marine approved the addition of off-leash trails, if they are deemed safe through further study.


Dog park advocate Sally Osborn said that the meadow south of 5th Street “is a doable space.” She advised the council against moving it to other locations that she and other advocates helped city staff to assess.


“I think we need a dog park here in Mukilteo,” she said.  “We’d be blessed to get three-fourths of an acre. I’d like to see more, but we’ll be blessed and happy with whatever we get.”


Debby and Joe McGehee said they’ve been walking their dogs off-leash in the gulch for the last 17 years, and are hopeful that the master plans will allow them to continue that.


They also asked council to include a dog park in the plans because it’s important for dogs to run, play and be free to act like dogs.  However, Joe McGehee advised against locating it in the meadow because it is too small, among other problems.


“What I’ve seen of patches like that, in a limited area with dogs running there and nothing stopping them, after awhile it gets torn up and becomes mud,” he said, “ and in the summertime it becomes dust.”


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