Japanese Gulch is our forest forever | Gulch View

By Arnie Hammerman, Japanese Gulch Group | Jan 22, 2014

We did it! The city of Mukilteo signed a purchase and sale agreement to obtain the remaining 98 acres of land in Japanese Gulch.

If you are a supporter of Japanese Gulch, you can be proud. We as a group of concerned citizens put our time effort and money into preserving this land for public use and keeping it from being developed.

Working together with state, county and city governments, as well as Forterra, we were able to buy this land, and it will now be open to the public forever.

So what happens now?

Many of you, I am sure, are wondering now that we have the property, do we still need the Japanese Gulch Group? It’s a great question, and one I asked myself.

After an agreement was made, I found myself back on the trails in Japanese Gulch. Walking through the forest seemed different, even though the land was unchanged.

I had a feeling of elation, knowing that the trees all around me would continue to grow and that this land will now be preserved forever.

I also observed that there was a lot of work still to be done.

The trails need repair, bridges need to be built, garbage and other environmental issues need to be resolved, wetlands need to be identified and protected, trail markers, maps and signs need to be set up, the stream needs to be assessed, tires and other debris removed.

The list goes on and on.

I ran into a lot of different people in the gulch – mountain bikers, hikers, people walking their dogs. I told each of these people I encountered that the land had been purchased and would become legally open to the public.

Some of them already knew this, and to others it was a pleasant surprise.

When I identified myself as a Japanese Gulch Group representative, every single one of these gulch users expressed concern that the property would change too much under public ownership.

They rejoiced in the fact that the forest would not be destroyed but also worried that it could still be “ruined.” Everyone had an opinion and vision of how the gulch should be.

While it would be a lot easier to hang up my Gulch Group hat and walk away, I realized that this type of community group is still relevant and that our members and supporters want to continue this work.

The property in Japanese Gulch still deserves our attention, our labor and our money. Together we can make this one of the finest urban forests anywhere.

The Japanese Gulch Group is now transitioning into our new role of stewardship, sustainability and advocacy.

We will work with the city, county and state to help maintain trails, work on signage and maps, make necessary improvements and bring ideas and expertise regarding the property.

We will also continue to listen to the citizens who currently use the gulch and those who want to, and bring their comments to the appropriate governmental agencies in a professional manner so that the city can create policy for the property that is in keeping with the citizens’ wishes.

There are many projects, including fish ladder expansion, cleanup, trail repair, mapping, public education and more that Japanese Gulch Group will continue to help with.

The city does not have the budget to do all these projects without our help. We are expanding our "Trail Blazers" program to bring in more volunteers to work on gulch projects.

Trail Blazers normally meet by the dog park the first Sunday of every month at 1 p.m. However, our February Trail Blazers gathering will be on Feb. 9, as we will take the day off on Feb. 2 to watch the Seahawks win the Super Bowl!

Please join our Trail Blazers captain Todd Kaday or email info@japanesegulch.org for more information on how you can participate.

Now it is time to celebrate! I think we all deserve a chance to celebrate the purchase of this land and to get together to talk about what we can accomplish next.

On Feb. 1, the Japanese Gulch Group will be holding an Enchanted Forest celebration and fundraiser at the Rosehill Community Center.

The event will include dinner, drinks and live music, as well as a charity auction to help raise money so that the Japanese Gulch Group can continue to support your interests as it regards this property and possibly other regional properties.

Tickets should be purchased in advance at www.japanesegulch.org. We lowered the price this year to $50 per person or a table of eight for only $350.

All proceeds are tax deductible, as we are a non-profit, and will go to our continuing role of supporting, educating the public and advocating for the citizens regarding Japanese Gulch.

In addition, we will also be co-hosting an event with Forterra after the purchase of the property has formally closed. (Dates and details to be announced.)

We look forward to seeing you and hearing from you. Please join us at either or both events, and thank you for your continuing support!

Arnie Hammerman is the president of the Japanese Gulch Group. Email the group at info@japanesegulch.org.

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