Gone now is the ‘Wild West’ | Gulch View

By Arnie Hammerman | Mar 19, 2014

Mukilteo officially purchased 98 acres of land on the west side of Japanese Gulch on Feb. 21.

This historic acquisition means the public has access to the land from Mukilteo Lane past Fifth Street and the dog park and up to 76th Street S.W. by the community gardens.

This patch of forested land is now our very own urban forest. Even though Mukilteo now owns this property, much of the land still is inside the city limits of Everett.

Mayors Jennifer Gregerson and Ray Stephanson are working on a plan to transfer the land to Mukilteo.

Obtaining this land and preserving it as a public forest is a tremendous accomplishment that many people helped make this happen. We all should be proud.

So what happens now? Let’s talk about the land and what is in there.

Japanese Gulch was logged in the early 1900s, and there is evidence throughout the property, in the way of large stumps, some of them with notches in them let by lumberjacks’ springboards.

There are many nice-sized living trees, too. The larger evergreen trees we see now, mostly cedars, firs and hemlock, were probably too small to log at the time but have and will continue to grow.

Others include deciduous trees like maples, alders, cottonwoods and even some madrona. In addition, there are countless other plants like ferns, salmon berries, nettles and many varieties of mushrooms, to name a few.

Many animals are in the gulch, too, including squirrels, raccoons, deer, mountain beaver and even an occasional fox or coyote. Countless birds live in Japanese Gulch, including woodpeckers, ravens and owls.

The fish ladder at the base of the gulch had some good returns of salmon, too. A nice diversity of plant and animal life currently exists in Japanese Gulch, which is great.

There are also some issues on the property that are not so great.

Many people have been trespassing on this land for a long time. This is not a pristine untouched forest, but it is still very nice and we are lucky to have it.

Many trails crisscross the property, some of them very old and some more recent.

Many of these trails may be fine and can be used by the public to access the property. Some of these trails are on steep grades, some cross streams and wetlands, and may need to be improved, rerouted or closed.

Makeshift structures on the property will likely have to be removed. There is also litter, including tires and even the carcass of an old car.

There are no trespassing signs bolted into trees that should be addressed. There are plastic pellets from airsoft rifles littering the ground. There are also places where holes have been dug and where large mounds have been created to make bike jumps.

I have seen zip-lines, forts dug out of the ground and many other strange things that have been built or done throughout the years.

In addition, there are invasive species of plants that may need to be removed.

All this needs to be assessed and dealt with now that the property is publicly owned.

There has been a “Wild West” mentality regarding this land. Since it was illegal to use the property, people did whatever they wanted. There were no rules and many activities went on.

Now that this is part of Mukilteo, the city is going to have to determine what uses are appropriate on this public land.

City staff are working on a master plan for Japanese Gulch, which will take some time to put together. Part of this is assessing the current condition of the land and prioritizing any safety, maintenance, environmental and use issues.

Parking, access, signage, garbage, code enforcement and many other items will ultimately be addressed, as well.

The city is also working on ways for the public to give commentary during this process.

The Japanese Gulch Group will work closely with the city to make sure that your voices are heard and that all parties are given an opportunity to discuss with officials the types of uses they want to see continued in the gulch.

Please let us know what you would like to see happening in Japanese Gulch and we will pass the information on to the appropriate officials or help you gain access to them directly, if you prefer. Send comments to info@japanesegulch.org.

Does this mean that you can’t go into the property and use it now? No. The public is welcome there under city ownership.

However, please understand that many of the trails are not authorized or improved at this time so be careful. Also, since this is now public land, we are all expected to abide by the law. While there may not yet be specific rules for Japanese Gulch, state and local laws do apply.

We at Japanese Gulch Group hope that you will have fun using this great urban forest. Please be safe and courteous in the woods and please don’t make any further alterations to the property without permission from the city.

It’s not going to be the Wild West anymore, but we can all work together to safely use and preserve this land under city ownership.

Arnie Hammerman is the president of the Japanese Gulch Group, which supports preservation of the Japanese Gulch for future generations.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Terry Preshaw | Mar 19, 2014 15:21

Arnie, the BMX "unauthorized" trails have created "ATTRACTIVE NUISANCES" in FOUR significant areas of the Gulch. This means that should a child be injured or killed in one of these areas, then the City of Mukilteo and all of us taxpayers will be liable. These trails are dangerous and the danger needs to be addressed immediately. Please reach out to the City and urge Mayor Gregerson and the Council to ACT QUICKLY to remove this looming liability.

Posted by: Terry Preshaw | Mar 21, 2014 12:46

Go to:


and see the destruction in images. Better yet, go there in person. Enter at the Goat Trail Loop Road Trail head and go right. There are four areas of destruction. The first one that you will come upon is not the newest. The newest area is below and to the right. The trail is fresh-cut.

Posted by: L LeBray | Mar 23, 2014 15:36

I agree.  BMX and walkers, nature viewers don't mix.  I thought the plan was to "preserve".  If there are going to be bike trails, there should be identified and separate bike trails.  There is also small wetland area at the beginning of the Gulch, just off from the community garden property that is of concern.  I brought it to the attention of the City and the Gulch Group prior to purchase. There are concrete pads next to the wetland, rebar sticking out of the ground, a rusted cable switchboard box and cabling into the ground, that may or may not be live. There floating barrels, tires, all types of rusting debri in this pond.  This wasn't makeshift activity.  There was some type of function for the remnants of the rusting and cabled switchgear next to the pond (cabling in the ground), appearing to be industrial related.  I don't know if it was Boeing or Military, but perhaps something to do with the 2 each. huge pipes emptying into this pond.  It is a hazard.  If I came upon it, children have and will come upon it.  I believe there are alot of "skeletons" buried there  , Boeing and or Air force dump activity, believe me, there are many unpermitted dumps in this area besides the known airforce landfill at Painefield that contains hazardous and radioactive disposal.. There are large circles, where nothing grows, just down from the community garden.  I found the plat map for the community garden and there is a note that part of the area was destroyed by Boeing parking lot.  I grew up in the military and lived on many superfund contaminated sites.  I know what these areas look like. I believe the City needs to restrict this area until they do proper investigation and due diligence.  I advised this early on.

Posted by: L LeBray | Mar 23, 2014 15:45

Here is a link to the closed Department of Defense "known" facilities. Two thru 5 are listed at Paine Field, No. 1 is not noted.  There is a known munitions loading and unloading area near the fuel tanks.  The military also used much of the surrounding area as a depot.  According to a report to congress that was sent to me by Lenny Siegel, zero investigations and cleanup to date for much of the former defense areas. Not only that, but with the VOC/TCE plume in Powder Gulch that has been under strip and treat to maintain the chemical plume, from Boeing dumping of toxic chemicals for decades, I requested that the City and Gulch group do testing of the Japanese Gulch as well, prior to purchase. Time to discover what is there, and clean it up and preserve.

Posted by: L LeBray | Mar 23, 2014 15:47


Posted by: Terry Preshaw | Mar 24, 2014 11:26

Go to:


and see how certain members of the BMX  biking community are responding... CAUTION: rude & obscene language is used.

Posted by: L LeBray | Mar 27, 2014 01:42

I believe the City, as the new owner of this property, needs to impose a moratorium while going through assessment and evaluation (evident they didn't do it before hand)......however, allowing and promoting public access, right off the bat, that will increase activity, there is a dire need for at least garbage cans, recycling containers, and a few porta potties.

When I explored and walked the gulch last July on several occasions, I picked up an entire bag of trash from the pond area alone...and there was too much trash and debri for me to fit into the one paper bag...left behing were used syringe needles, beer bottles, various plastic, food wrappers that were scattered near the wetland.  There is also a need for fresh water...pets should not be drinking from the gulch or pond (that is basically storm water runnoff from Paine Field and Boeing, and I know pets do drink it (I witnessed it), as well as wildllife.

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