Trails in Japanese Gulch are for mountain bikes | Letter
Editor, The Beacon:
I enjoyed Arnie Hammerman’s “Gone is the ‘Wild West’” editorial [The Beacon, Gulch View, page 4, March 19] about the need for change on the newly acquired Japanese gulch property, and to a much lesser degree, Jon Boyce’s letter on “Japanese Gulch going to the bikers,” [The Beacon, Letters, page 5, March 19].
Mr. Hammerman’s comment “Since it was illegal to use the property, people did whatever they wanted” is not quite accurate, though. The property has evolved to what it is today not because people wanted to break the law, but because of a recreational need.
Twenty years ago, few people in Mukilteo cared about Japanese Gulch. Citizens and city leaders were demanding a new road through the gulch to divert ferry traffic off the Speedway.
In the late ‘90s, the local mountain bike community spent thousands of hours building the trails that exist today. The rest of the community soon discovered these trails for hiking and public opinion quickly changed.
Mountain bikers built the trails because at least 95 percent of the trails on state and federal lands in Washington are off-limits to mountain bikes. Use is typically limited to forest service roads and designated motorcycle trails, as undesirable to bicyclists as they are to hikers.
Structures were built in the gulch because kids love building forts, and strict covenants in neighborhoods adjacent to the gulch do not allow forts.
The area with the “large holes” is where kids in protective camouflage gear periodically have paintball wars. I have never seen a zip line, but have seen a couple incredible rope swings.
Freestyle mountain biking popularity is soaring. Jon Boyce is upset that kids are building trails for it in the gulch. There are alternative locations like Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park in Issaquah or Stevens Pass in late summer for a $35 fee.
The fact is, these “radical and lawless” kids “engaging in serial vandalism” by building these bicycle jumps are no more at fault than the rest of the us in the community who have ignored the clearly posted “no trespassing” signs and built, maintained and accessed these trails for years.
I hope our city planners devise a plan that does not change the property too much. The trails need to stay open for what they were built for: mountain biking. A free ride bicycling area deserves consideration. It can’t just be hiker-only nature trails.
It should remain a place that our youth can also enjoy, which means leaving in a little “Wild West.”