City names Japanese Gulch park stakeholders

By Sara Bruestle | Jun 18, 2014

A subcommittee of “stakeholders” has been appointed to assist with city plans for Japanese Gulch.

The City Council on Monday confirmed a list of 10-12 members who will make recommendations for the Japanese Gulch Master Plan to the Parks & Arts Commission and the council for the 140-acre park.

“To develop a comprehensive vision for this parkland, it is important to have individuals on the subcommittee that have different perceptions of the gulch because of the way they use the park,” said Jennifer Berner, the city’s recreational and cultural services director, who is leading the process.

The stakeholders appointed to the Japanese Gulch Master Plan subcommittee are as follows:

Tyler Thompson, Japanese Gulch Group member; Carolyn “Dode” Carlson, Mukilteo Community Garden member; Demaree Clay, Mukilteo Dog Park member; Thomas Little, Parks & Arts commissioner; Randy Lord, city councilmember; Richard Emery, JGG member and former councilmember; Kristin Kohorst, JGG member; Suzie Gereherd, citizen-at-large; Dustin Weller, JGG member; Eli Klem, Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee member.

Councilmembers Linda Grafer and Chris Cook are alternates for Randy Lord.

The council also agreed on Monday to allow Berner the flexibility to add two more members: Chris Mueller, a Snohomish County Parks & Recreation employee, and an Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance member.

Mueller was the project manager for the 793-acre Paradise Valley Conservation Area in Woodinville, which includes a mountain/BMX bike park.

“It was a very similar scenario when he took on this project for the county, in that there were mountain bikers and BMX bikers out there using the Paradise Valley Conservation area,” Berner said.

“They were actually able to come to some good compromises, and I think he can offer some lessons learned in how they went through that process.”

Many, if not all, of the members have a vested interest in Japanese Gulch, as they are avid walkers, runners, bike riders and hikers who like to use the gulch on the border of Mukilteo and Everett.

Berner and Mayor Jennifer Gregerson selected the stakeholders for the subcommittee. There was no application process, though some members asked to be included.

“The members were considered based on their knowledge of Japanese Gulch in general, specific interest group knowledge, and general citizen interest,” Berner said.

Berner said 3-4 subcommittee meetings are tentatively scheduled. She said anyone can attend the meetings and speak to members.

A 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.

“I’m more interested, as part of the master planning, in making sure that people understand that we’re sharing this and we’re not fighting over it,” Council President Randy Lord said. “What we’re trying to figure out is how everyone can co-exist in the park without destroying it.”

Several on Monday asked for a more balanced subcommittee.

Resident Charlie Pancerzewski said a Parks & Arts commissioner or councilmember shouldn’t be part of the subcommittee because they’d essentially be making recommendations to themselves.

He also didn’t like that four members are affiliated with the Japanese Gulch Group – and that two others already have their place in the gulch through the community garden and dog park.

“This is not the way to do the planning,” Pancerzewski said. “It’s not fair to the community. We’ve spent so many dollars already on this, that I think other people should have a chance to weigh in on it.”

Steve Schmalz agreed that four JGG members on the subcommittee were too many. Though, if they stayed on, he said he would be OK with adding more non-JGG members.

“It’s important to get some fresh views that aren’t as tainted,” Schmalz said.

Council Vice President Linda Grafer disagreed.

“Having been a victim of this before, if a committee gets too large, nothing gets accomplished very easily,” Grafer said. “And anyone who is interested in what’s going on with the group can come, and we’ll all be available many times for discussions during this planning process.

“I’m very comfortable with where we are.”

The city is following a timeline with a 12-step process to have a master plan in place by May of next year. Berner said the process could cost the city $100,000.

Even without a master plan in place, Berner said that no one is allowed to make alterations – trails, jumps or otherwise – in the gulch without city approval. If you see anyone vandalizing the gulch, call 911 immediately, she said.

“Don’t wait to call, and don’t take it into your own hands,” Berner said. “Let the police come in and deal with it as it’s happening.”

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