Japanese Gulch déjà view | Guest View

By Jon Boyce | Jul 16, 2014

Nov. 2, 2010. On that election day, by a 2-to-1 margin, Mukilteo voters shouted a resounding “No” to annexation.

This, despite efforts amounting to thousands of hours by City Council and city staff. They spent more than $1 million promoting something a huge majority of residents never wanted.

And now, in the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

Think the $5.3 million spent on the purchase of Japanese Gulch was for preservation? For conservation? Think again.

At present, the financial resources of the city of Mukilteo and its residents are being shamelessly wasted to promote something an even bigger majority of Mukilteo voters never wanted, do not want and when it comes to a vote will thump at the ballot box:

The development of Japanese Gulch into a destination location for BMX bicyclists.

How is this possible? Why do some members of Mukilteo’s best-known environmental group lobby for policies that foster destruction of the Japanese Gulch ecosystem?

Why does the city’s director of recreation and cultural services dismiss challenges to her way of doing things as unworkable and unrealistic?

Do all these elected and city staff think they can simply frog-march ignorant Mukilteo residents to simply follow their development commands?

One question at a time.

It is possible because the methodology used is top-down, not bottom-up. Put another way, rather than first going throughout Mukilteo and asking “Do you want Japanese Gulch developed?”, the battle plan is to create a fiction of desired development and then sell it to you as if you wanted it all along.

As for why would members of the Japanese Gulch Group lobby for a BMX bicycle park, the answer is simply “Follow the money.”

Take a look at the website for the Seattle Parks Foundation. Their independently audited 501(c)(3) financial statements are posted there for all the world to see. Here’s where we got the money, and here’s where we spent the money.

Nothing of the sort exists on the Gulch Group site. Several long-term Japanese Gulch bicyclists quit the group about two years ago when the BMX’ers showed up with their checkbooks. They smelled a rat.

Regarding any challenges to the hup-one-hup-two-hup-three militaristic march to gulch development, it’s more about short-term resume enhancement than multi-generational, long-term stewardship.

The last question is easy to answer: Mukilteo voters are both knowledgeable and smart about their money. Trying to slip a fast one past them is doomed to failure.

So spending untold staff hours, tens of thousands of dollars, and wasting the well-meant efforts of citizen volunteers makes no sense. That is, unless there’s an agenda.

Make no mistake, there is. Why on earth would the developers of the Paradise Valley Mountain/BMX bicycle area be invited as stakeholders in the development process if there wasn’t? Yet the Mukilteo neighborhoods adjacent to proposed development were not asked to be stakeholders!

Speaking of missing stakeholders, where are the indigenous stakeholders represented?

Mukilteo’s Japanese-American community? Those who represent the Native American traditions of the Lushootseed – Coast Salish? The bicyclists and walkers who commute to Boeing everyday through the gulch?

The physically challenged stakeholders, who appreciate the benefits of ADA facilities? Those who want a Mukilteo Environmental Learning Center? Nowhere.

But multiple stakeholders from the Japanese Gulch Group? They are thick as flies in a cow pasture on a warm summer’s day.

The entire process is corrupted. But it need not be.

There are exemplary organizations and public park facilities nearby that “get it right.” Our city would do well to not reinvent the wheel, and instead follow the time-tested methods and success of the Seattle Parks Foundation, Carkeek Park, Discovery Park and the Anacortes Trail System.

All of these look not at short-term gratification, but long-term conservation viability.

Perhaps a Mukilteo Parks Foundation can attract some stakeholders, ones that are less about campaign donations and more about sustainable philanthropy; less about special interests and more about protected place.

These themes will sell to Mukilteo: Preservation, restoration, conservation.

Development will not.

There is a crying need to hit the pause button, to start a do-over. Because if not, when the Mukilteo voters are asked to pay for these BMX development bills, they will respond all over again as they did with annexation: A resounding “No.”

Jon Boyce has been a resident of Mukilteo for over 20 years. He led the winning campaign against annexation, and now advocates for the preservation of Japanese Gulch.

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