Four-wheelers trashing Pritchard Park
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:22 PM
Illicit off-road drivers cut muddy swaths through an upland meadow.
This week at City Hall, community members compared visions for the future of Pritchard Park.
They spoke of trails and water access and creative ways to incorporate into the design the Federal Superfund site at the parks northeastern corner.
But what they didnt discuss and what many of them didnt know is that someone out there not only has a drastically different vision for the park.
And theyve already broken ground.
This used to be a pretty meadow, said Blakely Avenue resident David Snedeker on Thursday, overlooking an orgy of ruts on a trampled hillside at the east side of the park.
And it gets worse.
Judging by the landscape, for those eager to slip their rigs into four-wheel drive it couldnt get any better.
Adventurous drivers have over the past few months torn an ever-lengthening trail network into the uplands portion of the park.
The paths appear to have been made with large trucks or sport utility vehicles.
They damage has gotten progressively worse, according to Snedeker, who walks his dog at the park several times a week.
This is new, he said, examining fresh tracks through frazzled salal. They just tear through here looking for new trails.
Several minutes later, as Snedeker and a reporter watched, a yellow sport utility vehicle rumbled down the gravel driveway at the east end of the park and drove onto the improvised track.
After disappearing into the trees for awhile, the vehicle reemerged and sped away.
You cant even hear him when he goes back there, Snedeker said. Im glad someone else is here to see this so I dont just sound like some old fart complaining.
City employees were at the site Thursday to tour the damage. Assistant Public Works Director Lance Newkirk said the city will try to block access to the off-road tracks, which originate at Creosote Place, the parks eastern driveway.
Its hard because obviously we want the site to be accessible to the public, he said, noting that the city has dealt with similar problems in the past at other parks. But we also have to protect the hill from damage.
Along with restricting access, Newkirk said police would be asked to patrol the park more regularly.
Snedeker began noticing the damage several weeks ago. As it got worse, he decided to speak up.
I started to worry about the hillside, he said. Once the rains come, that hillside could end up in the flats. You cant mess around with slopes.
Park District Director Terry Lande agreed, saying park employees have yet to determine whether they will have to mitigate the damage.
If this were November and it were left the way it is it could become a real issue, Lande said. Hopefully we caught it early enough to manage it.
Lande said he didnt know about the damage until an email from Snedeker this week.
I was disgusted, he said, of what he saw when he went to the site. Its upsetting. Whoever did this was breaking ground in a whole bunch of places, trying to explore. They were Lewis and Clarking the whole dang thing.
Tracks are well-worn in some spots, while others extend only a short distance into the brush before stopping.
Over here they have some kind of jump, Snedeker said, standing atop a large mound.
Pointing to tracks that go up the hillside toward Eagle Harbor Drive, he theorized that the four-wheelers were looking for new access points.
The 49-acre park is slated for improvements to merge its varied landscape into a cohesive, user-friendly whole.
Planning began earlier this year, with the formation of a special committee tasked with guiding design.
A preferred alternative will be presented this fall.
Several public meetings have been held already, including some that showcased ideas generated by a group of graduate students from the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Wednesdays meeting was organized as a workshop in which some 60 participants discussed their own ideas for the park.
Another meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, and there will be a public site visit on Aug. 5.
Information about the Pritchard Park project is available at the www.biparks.org.