Spray-painted Xs appear on trees in Japanese GulchVandalism undermines conservation effort at former BMX course
City officials say they have no plans to topple trees in Japanese Gulch despite spray-painted markings that appeared last week on several at a former BMX bike course that is now a conservation area.
“This is city park land,” city planner Karl Almgren said. “This is an area for conservation, for enjoying nature. It is not an area to do work without coordinating with the city.”
Almgren said he learned of the apparent vandalism Tuesday, Feb. 7 when an area resident called his office.
“This is the first time we’ve had this type of spray painting happen in that gulch,” he said, noting that several trees have been marked with orange Xs and one has “clear cut” written on it. “It was clear that was what they meant with the Xs, but if any cutting occurs, 911 would be called immediately.”
The markings were also reported to Mukilteo police, which Almgren said is the first thing anyone should do upon discovering such vandalism. When police responded to the area Feb. 7, no one was around.
“Spray paint on trees is not easy top get off without damaging the tree,” Almgren said. “The best fix is to just allow it fade over time. We’re still working on what we can do in the meantime.”
Prior to 2014, the site just off of a cul-de-sac on 19th Street was private property used organically for bicycle trail riding. Eventually, man-made dirt jumps of 4-6 feet in height appeared for use by BMX bike riders, Almgren said.
The city purchased the property in early 2014 and applied a conservation easement limiting the allowed use of land to passive activities, such as hiking.
The city then contracted with EarthCorps in early 2015 to begin removing the dirt jumps and replanting the area to restore the landscape and the damaged wetland buffers.
In the summer of 2016, Everett Boy Scout James Ramirez took up the task of further removing the jumps and continuing the replanting and wetland restoration effort for his Eagle Scout project. Some of the vegetation Ramirez planted for his project has apparently been uprooted by whoever is responsible for the vandalism, Almgren said.
The city also initiated a public process in 2014 to create a master plan for the gulch designating the site as a conservation area and looking at the 76th Street trailhead as a site for a future dirt jump bike course.
That plan was adopted in 2016 after the community told city officials in a series of open houses, focus groups and surveys that the site should be preserved to its natural state.
“Preservation of trees is a big part of that,” Almgren said. “If you do want to do something in Japanese Gulch, our stewardship program is the best way to get involved.”
EarthCorps runs the city’s parks stewardship program, which offers free training from May to July for anyone age 18 or older looking to simply volunteer or lead projects as stewards.
Volunteers attend four lectures and hands-on field workshops at Rosehill Community Center. Topics include general program orientation and expectations, plant identification, best management practices related to invasive plant control and planting, trail maintenance and volunteer management.
Once trained, stewards commit to at least 25 hours to the program within a year in which they implement an agreed upon work plan with their volunteer cohort. In addition, stewards coordinate and lead community volunteer events.
To register, visit www.earthcorps.org/volunteer.php.