Trails at Last on Heybrook Ridge by Ann Darlington
Public Meeting at River House on November 17, 2014
The long-awaited news about trail building on Heybrook Ridge was presented at a Public Meeting at the River House on November 17th by Chris Mueller, Senior Park Planner of Snohomish County Parks and Recreation. Officially it is called the Heybrook Ridge County Park Recreational Management Plan (the Plan); to the enthusiastic audience of 25 -30 folks, it was the opening scene of a dream coming true.
Chris explained that the hold-up on getting started on trails has been the lack of Park frontage property along the Index-Galena Road suitable for a trailhead. This was remedied with the purchase in September of land right across from the town bridge and adjacent to HRCP’s northwest boundary. The Park does extend on the south side to Highway 2, but there is no safe area for parking for more than a couple of cars, nor for crossing the highway to get there. (As Chris commented, “To widen Highway 2 at that spot makes Big Bertha look like peanuts.”)
The Public Meeting was held to encourage people to air their concerns and make suggestions about the Plan, and several folks did just that. It seemed to this listener that local landowners were satisfied with the draft plan, especially when Chris described how trails would be carefully laid out to protect private property.
Check out an aerial view map of the proposed trails and get a better idea of the draft Plan at http://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/20854. The Plan is a flexible document. As stated on SnoCo Park’s website (see also http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/2708/Heybrook) “As new information and/or opportunities become available, the plan may be modified to avoid ecologically sensitive areas, erosion prone slopes, user conflicts and/or other unforeseen site conditions.”
This winter, appropriate permits will be obtained, and bids sought for trail construction. Phase 1 trail building will begin this spring. The first trail will be about 2 miles long. It will start at the trailhead across from town, wind its way up the north side of Heybrook Ridge, and end just over the top on the south side of the ridge in an area that was logged years ago. From there we will enjoy views of Bridal Veil Falls, Mt. Index, and the surrounding Skykomish valley. The Friends of Heybrook Ridge (FOHR) will contribute significant funding to help cover the costs of construction. You’ve seen us asking for donations for years! At last we will be funding those boots on the ground in a few months, and if all goes as planned, we’ll have a rough trail in place by the end of the summer of 2015. We expect that after a professional private contractor carves the rough trail out, we will work with the Washington Trail Association and volunteers to finish it off. It will be built to Forest Service standards (see notes at the base of the map), open to passive recreation (no motorized vehicles) and there will be no fees for its use. There will also be no facilities, at least at the start (“pack it in, pack it out.”) Our goals are bigger than one trail. We intend to build a connecting trail to the new 10 acre “Annex” (donated to the Park last year by FOHR) with it’s stunning view of Canyon Falls, and ultimately, with support from the USFS, to the Heybrook Ridge Lookout tower. Likewise, we aspire to a wetland, flat trail on the bottom of the north side, along and above the Index-Galena Road, but this is not feasible unless/until we succeed with one more land purchase. That trail could be ideal for children, differently-abled folks, strollers, and wheelchairs. And we hope one day to get a trail down the south face of HRCP to Highway 2. Connectivity and linkage are the buzzwords here. As the County notes on their website, “Snohomish County Parks is working with partner agencies including the US Forest Service, State Parks, State DNR and the Town of Index to plan and develop trail linkage across multiple facilities in the Index area. Although planning is in the early phases, Snohomish County Parks is leading efforts to expand trail access and connectivity in the area.” The dream is to someday connect Wallace Falls to the Index Wall to Sunset Falls, or as Chris put it, “A trail called ‘Falls to the Wall to the Falls’.”