An inside look at the Japanese Gulch Group | Gulch View

By Arnie Hammerman | May 21, 2014

We saved the forest in Japanese Gulch, so do we still need Japanese Gulch Group?

The Japanese Gulch Group advocates for outdoor recreation, wildlife and ecological preservation of the green space in Japanese Gulch. We were founded by a group of concerned citizens in 2007 to try to save the forest for public use. Many JGG founders hiked or biked the trails on the property.

When they realized the land they used for recreation was private property and could be developed, they decided to save it. From a small group of vocal people advocating for preservation of this land, we grew and organized.

We formed a 501c3 not-for-profit charity, launched a website, and began fundraising to support our efforts to build awareness of the property and preserve it.

Although primarily run by the efforts of our volunteer members, we had a paid director for a few years leading up to the purchase in order to help get grants and run the organization.

We are now back to being all volunteer, except for contracting with a bookkeeper to keep things running smoothly.

We raise money to help work toward bettering Japanese Gulch. The money donated didn’t directly go toward the purchase of the land, but the process that led to its purchase.

Although, if we had received a large donation from a wealthy benefactor, we would have gladly handed that over to the city.

Most of our supporters give a little at a time, and we appreciate the support and the donations no matter how small. Given the relatively modest funding we receive, the best way to make an impact is to use that money to get the word out.

Our operations, advertising, events and community organizing were able to attract the kind of money needed to purchase the land. We worked with state, county and local governments to facilitate the purchase, and helped Forterra expedite the sale.

If you add up all your generous donations over the years, Japanese Gulch Group would not have had enough for a down payment, yet we helped raise $5.4 million and aided the purchase of the forest.

Our members are also very active in the community and the gulch itself. We organize numerous events and provide labor and materials that help save the city money and better the gulch.

We build bridges, maintain trails, mark sensitive areas, pick up garbage, remove invasive species and educate the public about the gulch. We helped put up signs, map trails, work on parking lots and fences for the Mukilteo dog park.

We funded an environmental study removing a contingency, which lowered the closing cost of the property. And that’s only some of what we’ve done.

We are your neighbors and friends dedicating our time, effort and money to better the community and the gulch for everyone.

I have personally seen many activities in the gulch, including hiking, mountain biking, dog walking, horseback riding, BMX bicycling, air soft rifle shooting, paint ball, fishing, zip lines, geocaching, bird watching, tree cutting, dirt moving.

I’ve also seen many types of building, including the creation of trails, bridges, ramps, staircases, jumps, dams, treehouses and forts.

Which activities will be allowed to continue? That is what the city is trying to determine. The city is putting together a panel of citizens who can advocate for various uses of the gulch and explain the impacts both positive and negative.

The City Council and mayor will then use this information to help create their master plan for the gulch.

We encourage current and former users of the gulch to bring their case to the city and discuss their use so that the city can determine the best course of action.

The Japanese Gulch Group welcomes the opinions of all users or potential users of the gulch.

Bicyclists have the right to advocate to continue to use the gulch. That includes mountain and BMX bicyclists. Dog walkers, hikers, environmentalists and all other users should have their say.

If people are against certain activities, they have the right to express that opinion, too. We thank everyone for their concern and hope that ongoing discussions with the city will remain constructive.

As for trail creation, bike jump building, fort digging and any other activity that alters the property, we ask everyone to stop construction activities and let the city assess the property.

We realize there likely are problems with some past activities that the city will need to address. Please give the city a chance to analyze the situation and develop a strategy. Once that is done, things can be cleaned up, altered or rebuilt as is deemed appropriate.

The Japanese Gulch Group will continue to work to help preserve Japanese Gulch for both recreational users and the environment as long as you want us to. We continue to work on your behalf.

If you like the gulch and choose to donate, it helps offset the operating costs of the newly acquired property. This lowers the burden on Mukilteo taxpayers and the city.

Many gulch users are from outside of Mukilteo and, by contributing to the Japanese Gulch Group, they can do their part to support this urban forest.

Do we still need Japanese Gulch Group? I think so, but ultimately the choice is yours.

Please join us for a ribbon cutting ceremony, celebration and work party on June 14 with Forterra, the city of Mukilteo, and our state and regional representatives. Details to follow.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the gulch!

Arnie Hammerman is the president of the Japanese Gulch Group, which has the mission to preserve the Japanese Gulch for parks and open space.

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