Public comments sought on addition to Trustland Trails system
— Created November 11, 2020 by Kacie Jo Voeller
By Kacie Jo Voeller
The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District (SWPRD) is currently taking comments from the public on its proposed addition to Trustland Trails. Comments must be received by Monday and will be reviewed and discussed by the SWPRD Board of Commissioners.
Doug Coutts, executive director of SWPRD, said the proposed trail additions are part of the organization’s plan to provide improvements and more options for residents to enjoy the outdoors.
“It is part of an overall plan we have been working on over the past few years for implementing the trail plan at Trustland Trails,” he said. “This has been an ongoing development — as we get to a certain point, we start the next loop of trails and how we are going to get into certain areas and what we are going to do.”
The comments from the public will help to inform the board if any changes need to be considered, or if the addition can move forward without adjustments. Coutts said the proposal had been reviewed by the Island County Planning Department and was found to not enter any critical areas such as wetlands or need any special permits.
“It gives us and the board an opportunity to hear from the community directly about the plan itself,” he said. “We do circulate this to the immediate neighbors and anybody that borders that property. We send out a letter and plan to make sure that they are aware that this is the plan for the property so that if they have a concern about it they can bring it to our attention.”
Coutts said while normally a public meeting would be held to get feedback from the community, comments are instead being accepted by mail and email.
“The only impact that COVID-19 has really had is we cannot have any public meeting to get the community to come in to give us comments directly and talk to us,” he said.
When building new trails, SWPRD aims to do so with as little environmental disturbance as possible, Coutts said. Trails are constructed using the path of least impact to the forestland and allow for a buffer zone to surrounding property lines.
“We try to be as sensitive as possible in doing all of this to the environment because that is hugely important to us as well as to our neighbors,” he said. “We want to do all of that in a very thoughtful manner and that is how we plan to do it.”
Coutts said the area currently includes a quarter-mile ADA loop and the proposed plan includes additional accessible trails. He said the parks and recreation district aims to provide opportunities for a wide range of individuals to access outdoor spaces.
“It is part of the statewide recreation plan as well as part of our comprehensive plan to have those kinds of things (accessible trails) available to our community,” he said. “And it is something that we can target to try to be inclusive in everything that we can.”
Coutts said if there are no major adjustments that need to be made to the plan, work on the 2020 trail and the ADA trail would start in the winter.
“(The trails would be) flagged and gone through and looked at and constructed possibly sometime in December, hopefully opening sometime early next year,” he said. “The ADA trail might take a little bit longer because as an ADA trail, it needs to also have a surface that is conducive (for all). It cannot just be a dirt trail, it actually has to have a surface.”
Coutts said in current times, SWPRD’s mission of continuing to offer options for islanders to enjoy local trails and areas remains key.
“It is important, especially right now with the situation we are in with COVID, the idea of being able to get out from a physical health perspective and a mental health perspective,” he said.
Coutts said parks and trails give community members the chance to take a break and enjoy the natural world, whether it is by walking, hiking, running, or simply spending time outside.
“You can do those kinds of activities and remain socially distant and wear a mask and get out there and enjoy something,” he said. “I think it is hugely important at this point in time, (and) I think ongoing it will continue to be important for our community to have more and more options.”
Comments must be received by Nov. 16. Comments can be submitted via email by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by mail to the following address: SWPRD, Attn: Executive Director, 5475 Maxwelton Road, Langley, WA, 98260.