A windstorm on the evening of January 28, 2016 was the final blow for a large rotting Sitka Spruce tree by the Bessemer Road gate, about 7 miles up the Middle Fork road. It fell across the road, completely blocking all access to the upper valley. Two early arrivals parked on the side of the road and did their planned bike ride or hike from there. But a couple heading for Goldmyer Hot Springs were determined to get through so drove back home to get a chain saw and try to get enough of the tree cut out to drive through. Soon after they started working other locals that often help with tree clearing showed up and steady progress was made clearing the 3-foot diameter tree. After about an hour a 2-person King County road crew arrived with bigger chainsaws and a truck with a winch. They were able to cut through a healthier part of the tree and drag a large section out of the way. Normally King County is not responsible for road clearing because the paving project is not done, but they came out because they were concerned that people farther up the valley might be stranded. A path was finally cleared by about 3 PM.On February 5 another King County crew equipped with a big excavator returned to the spot to complete the clearing.
On January 26, 2016 the local DNR staff hosted a neighborhood forum to discuss early stage plans for a new trailhead at the base of Mount Teneriffe. The DNR had previously met with selected neighbors and scheduled a previous forum that was lightly attended because a strong windstorm hit the area that day. This event drew about 40 people, the higher attendance probably due to an article about the meeting in a local newspaper.After a brief overview, Doug McClelland of the local DNR office fielded questions and concerns from the audience for over an hour and half. Doug emphasized that the DNR is not trying to draw more recreation related traffic up the narrow SE Mount Si Road, rather it is trying to solve a problem of inadequate parking at the school bus turn-around as the Mount Teneriffe trails become more popular. This Mount Si NRCA project is only one part of a comprehensive Snoqualmie Corridor Recreation Plan including DNR lands on Tiger Mountain, the Raging River valley, Rattlesnake Mountain, and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA. Most of the trailheads being developed are close to I-90 and do not involve hikers walking or driving through a residential area. That makes this trailhead particularly sensitive and neighbors from the affected area were not shy to voice their concerns.
- Parking and traffic on SE Mt Si Road and in nearby neighborhoods. A few spots along the road are legal to park on, but parking in areas where it’s prohibited only incurs a $20 ticket which most felt is not enough of a deterrent.
- Safety concerns due to hikers walking along the road when the Mt Si parking lot is full. There are no sidewalks and the shoulder is narrow so the hikers often walk in the traffic lanes
- Increased traffic on a service level 4 road that receives only minimal maintenance. Most of these issues must ultimately be addressed by King County, but integrated planning by all parties and a coordinated request will probably yield the best results.
- Concerns about visitors trespassing on private property and inappropriate behavior. One resident found visitors having a picnic on her lawn. Some hikers feel free to change clothes in the middle of the street. Ungated parking lots invite activities unrelated to hiking, including some users frequently staying overnight.
- Concerns about levels of police patrols and enforcement. This is another issue that extends well beyond the DNR, but should be addressed as part of the plan.
These problems are not going to be easy to solve, but Doug emphasized that there is good cooperation between the various levels of government and other groups funding the projects. Visitation levels have been increasing for years and doing nothing is not a solution. Some of the possible mitigations discussed were
- Installing a vending machine for purchase a Discover Pass to reduce pressure to park outside the designated areas
- Continuing the experiment with a shuttle service started in the summer of 2015. It got a lot of publicity but very little use. Ultimately a shuttle service will be needed for both the Mount Si and Middle Fork areas because there will not be enough parking for the anticipated demand. The Middle Fork paving project actually reduces the number of possible parking places because the road is being raised to improve drainage and this results in steep shoulders.
- Avoid building new trails beyond those that currently exist in the Mount Si NRCA and encourage use of trails in other nearby areas with better access.
- Consider electronic surveillance to help safety and law enforcement. Automatically monitoring how full the lots are and making the information available online could direct hikers to less busy areas.
- Improve signage for parking, pass requirements and purchase, and other nearby hiking options
Work on the Teneriffe trailhead and other Snoqualmie Corridor facilities is being funded by a $100,000 grant – RCO 14-1841 Snoqualmie Corridor Facilities Design. The initial thinking when applying for the grant was to build a new parking lot uphill from the school bus turn around where hikers currently park.Work done as part of the grant evaluated the possible trailhead locations more carefully and the preferred site shifted to area B shown below. The DNR staff stressed that these are still concept drawings. Actual plans require significantly more study to evaluate wildlife, drainage, traffic and other impacts.
01/11/2016 Living Snoqualmie – New Hiking Trailhead, 70 Car Parking Lot Planned for Mt. Si Road, Residents Voice Concerns