Timeline for gulch master plan set

By Sara Bruestle | Apr 16, 2014

A timeline spanning a year has been set for the creation of a Japanese Gulch Master Plan for the 140-acre park.

Mukilteo purchased undeveloped land within the gulch piece by piece over the years to preserve it as parkland. The last 97 acres was purchased for $5.4 million on Feb. 21.

Since then, the city’s Parks & Arts Commission has been working with city staff on a planning process for the master plan. An outline and tentative schedule was presented to the City Council on Monday.

A Japanese Gulch Master Plan would establish a comprehensive vision for the park, including what it should look like, how to manage the property, and a list of future improvement projects in the gulch.

“It’s kind of our road map for Japanese Gulch,” said Jennifer Berner, the city’s recreational and cultural services director, who is leading the process. “Acquiring Japanese Gulch, it’s a lot of property we brought in, and now we want to figure out what to do with it.”

Even without a master plan in place, park rules still apply, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said. No one is allowed to make alterations – trails, jumps or otherwise – in the gulch without city approval, she said.

“They (users) shouldn’t be building trails without approval of the property owner,” the mayor said. “We’ve put up some some signage. That’s about all we can do.”

Interim City Administrator Rex Caldwell agreed.

“Certainly park rules exist now that we own the property,” he said. “We are trying to enforce our rules, keeping in mind that this is in Everett. We need to get this in Mukilteo for some of these rules to apply.”

Berner on Monday outlined a 12-step process for creating a master plan. The process could cost the city $100,000, just like the Lighthouse Park Master Plan, she said.

Steps include taking a natural inventory, assessing the needs of the community, determining a budget, setting up a subcommittee, creating conceptual maps, and holding information sessions.

If all goes as planned, according to the timeline, the council could adopt a master plan by May of next year.

Some concerned residents are pushing to get the master plan finished sooner. They argue a year is too long to wait for park plans and rules when users are out on the property now.

“I’ve had a few people call me up saying, ‘Why has this taken so long? Why wasn’t this done two years ago?’” Caldwell said. “But we’ve only owned this for [fewer than] 90 days.

“It is a great process, and it’s working well. It’s going to take as long as it takes to do it right.”

A subcommittee made up of 7-10 “stakeholders” will help the city determine how the park will serve the community, Gregerson said. All members will be confirmed by the council, she said.

“We’re determining members now,” Berner said, adding that staff already has a councilmember and Parks & Arts commissioner in mind.

She said members also could include representatives of the Japanese Gulch Group, Mukilteo Dog Park, Mukilteo Community Garden and the Mukilteo Youth Advisory Council.

Others to consider are recreational users, such as a hiker, mountain and BMX bicyclists, and a citizen-at-large.

“We want to be open through this process,” Berner said. “Is there a place where BMX biking could happen on this property? If so, how do we do it? Where do we do it? We will figure that out.”

The council is scheduled to look at a budget for the Japanese Gulch Master Plan in a 7 p.m. meeting Monday, May 19, at City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way, Mukilteo.

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