Northwest NEWS

December 4, 2000

Local News

County Parks discusses Daniels Creek Park plan with community

by Wendy Walsh Special to the Weekly
   King County Parks Department voluntarily stopped work on the Daniels Creek Park construction project as a result of input from the Water Tenders.
   There was general agreement that the original Master Plan needed to be reviewed and everyone needed to re-envision the design. The County decided to hold two public meetings to get input on their Master Plan before proceeding with further construction.
   The first meeting was held on Nov. 28 with the Upper Bear Creek Unincorporated Community Council, which was chaired by Nancy Stafford. More than 22 members of the community met with King County Parks and construction officials.
   Connie Blumen, Parks Program Manager, reviewed the original Master Plan, and acknowledged that there had not been a public hearing since 1992 and much had changed since then. The two main changes have been the construction at Cottage Lake Park and the purchase of the Cold Creek Wetland property. This purchase connected the Daniels Creek property with Basset Pond, creating a protected wetland resource, which has since been discovered to be vital to the Bear Creek ecosystem. She acknowledged a need to meet with the community to rethink the original proposed plans and to consider the larger picture. Also, new wetland regulations have been implemented since 1992, which need to be reviewed in context of the Master Plan.
   The construction plans were presented by Bud Parker, Supervisor of Parks Planning and Development, and John McCarthy, Construction Project Manager. Parker focused on the permitting process and over-all design. While the permits were issued in 1995, and renewed, some of what was allowed is not current with existing laws. He said that permits are never current with the law as they are issued after extensive reviews and then grandfathered in.
   Laws may then change, and often do, but the permitting process is so lengthy that to go back each time laws change would prevent anything from ever being built.
   Right now, paving close to a Class I wetland without a significant grassy swale would not be allowed. Several members of the community expressed concerns about this, and inquired about drainage.
   McCarthy explained that the drainage would be directed south as there was more of a natural buffer into the wetland there.
   The Master Plan was designed in two phases. Phase I calls for restoration of the old chicken coop as a picnic shelter, the parking lot which is large enough for two school buses and 18 cars, fencing, mitigation planning and paved pedestrian walkways.
   Phase II calls for the installation of a boardwalk for an interpretive trail through the wetland south of the buildings.
   Chris Mayo and Dee Ingram of Parks explained the potential uses of the park included interpretive programs on a small scale. They visualized coordinating with local classroom educational programs on wetland ecology which would include field trips along boardwalks to study the wetland areas.
   Several members of the audience questioned the definition of "park" as a place for use by the public for family recreational activities. It was suggested that Cottage Lake Park served this function.
   Blumen explained that in King County, the Parks Department was the land management division, and they had jurisdiction over many different kinds of properties. Some of their properties were acquired to protect natural resources and were not suitable for human use, such as marshlands.
   Gwen Maxfield, from the community, sited the Juanita Bay marshlands as an example of an area where people could view the property from the edges, and birdwatch, but it was not suitable for any kind of active use.
   The Cold Creek wetland area (which includes Daniels Creek and Basset Pond) is hydrologically significant in providing pure cold water to the Bear Creek stream system, including the Sammamish River.
   A question from the audience was posed about the role of Water Tenders in relationship to Parks properties.
   Terry Lavender, representing Water Tenders, explained that this is a volunteer group which has put in over 190 hours yearly in activities related to protecting the Bear Creek ecosystem.
   She explains that the group partners with the Parks Department under the Adopt-a-Park program to clean up litter, pull purple loosestrife and scotch broom on parks resource properties in Bear Creek, and send in regular reports on the condition of the properties.
   They also host the "Meet The Salmon" streamside talks every fall and publish a quarterly newsletter at their own expense. Some of the members have been active since 1968.
   It has been a policy of Water Tenders to actively work with the County in watershed protection in a positive partnering relationship. As a result, there has been a history of mutual respect, which is one reason why Bear Creek continues to have a successfully protected salmonid habitat.
   Dick Schatzel presented the tentative vision of the Water Tenders for Daniels Creek Park. He said the group supported use of the shelter as an educational and interpretive center, but suggested that groups be limited to small vans rather than large school buses. The underlying concern is that the sensitive nature of the entire wetland complex is not suitable for large groups.
   He suggested that the parking lot be reduced in size and there isn't a need for paved paths. It was also suggested that if some of the asphalt is removed, grass-lined swales could be planted towards the Class I wetland.
   Maxfield remarked that "psychologically, a parking lot which is hidden behind trees gives a different impression than what is there now, and would invite less use."
   Essentially, there was general consensus by the audience that the parking lot might be too large and may invite inappropriate uses to the sensitive site.
   With Cottage Lake Park so close, this site should focus on the more limited passive use of environmental education for small groups.
   There are still many questions, such as what to do with the barn building. Everyone agreed that there needs to be more meetings at the County level, and with the community.