Woodinville has long been known for its equestrian-friendly lifestyle.
by Jeff Switzer
Following a similar program in southern California, the King County Executive Horse Council is talking about creating a horse district in the City of Woodinville.
But they need to hear from the residents of the Leota-Wellington area to see if that's what they want.
"Maybe we're putting the cart before the horse," said Jan Reinking, director of the King County Executive Horse Council. "We'd like to help the people in the Leota-Wellington area, but it has to start with them."
The idea for a Horse District–or H-District–borrowed from areas in California, has been around for nearly 20 years.
It establishes zoning that preserves existing equestrian communities and allows for safe horse circulation, both now and in the future, since the zoning and use would stay with the land from owner to owner.
According to the draft zoning proposal, creating, expanding, or repealing an H-district requires the approval of 75 percent of the residents.
In addition, a horse district could be no smaller than five acres.
The horse council says the next step is to establish horse communities on official planning documents, such as Woodinville's Comprehensive Plan.
In addition, communities wishing to maintain their equestrian lifestyle should apply for equestrian zoning designation.
Once the designation is in place, other regulations can apply, such as keeping road shoulders unpaved; speed limits reflecting the safety needs of the type of community; each lot with a minimum keeping area; and preservation of trails and separated pathways on right-of-ways would be preserved.
An H-District in the Leota-Wellington area?
The Leota-Wellington area has long been a horse-friendly community, offering larger parcels of land and roads with wide shoulders. Concerns have arisen that the horse communities are disintegrating because developments are cutting off access from historically used trails.
"Would you keep a boat if you had no lakes to drive it on?" asked Reinking.
Reinking believes the Leota-Wellington area as a horse district would provide the ideal transition into the Bear Creek Community Plan rural area.
"Unless you set down some protection for shoulders and trails, horse communities lose their right and ability to keep horses," Reinking said.
Woodinville has long been associated with the equestrian lifestyle, and many residents keep horses and live by the city's slogan, "Country Living, City Style."
According to the 1992 Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, much of Woodinville fits the definition of an equestrian community.
It's near several regional trails, such as the Tolt Pipeline and the Burke-Gilman; there are concentrations of private parcels where horses are kept, in the Leota-Wellington area; there are stabling operations and riding schools; supporting industries such as feed stores and veterinarians.
In California, the San Bernardino Trail serves as the backbone for the equestrian districts. Similarly, the Tolt and Sammamish River Trails serve Woodinville.
"It's a real logical extension of the Growth management Act," Reinking said, "you have to plan where your populations are going to be."
But with the master planning process for the Jerry Wilmot Green Gateway Park near completion, those who have traditionally used the future park's site for loading and unloading horses for the Sammamish Trail are feeling the pinch on their lifestyle.
With the help of King County Councilmember Louise Miller, right-of-way is being purchased on the west side of the slough for a soft trail.
Also being considered is a bridge connecting the current trail with the future trail.
Meanwhile, construction on Jerry Wilmot Park, which could occur in phases, is currently targeted for 1996.
With the soft-trail still in the works and the new park going in, some have suggested making a temporary loading-unloading area in the Jerry Wilmot park for horse trailers until the soft-trail is completed.
The horse community and the city
Representatives from the King County Executive Horse Council spoke at a recent Woodinville City Council study session, relaying their concerns and suggesting ways the council could help them protect the equestrian community.
Some members of the council were in favor of drafting a resolution to the planning commission relaying the council's support on the subject.
Others felt it would be more appropriate for the horse council's presentation to be given to the planning commission during the public testimony portion of the draft comprehensive plan on Dec. 6.
In addition to the public hearing, Jan Reinking would like to hear from any residents interested in forming a Horse District. She can be reached at 485-3452.