2021 Lord Hill Regional Park Public Meeting Presentation Materials
Lord Hill Regional Park (LHRP) is a 1,480-acre park located in central Snohomish County between the cities of Snohomish and Monroe. Set in former timberland, the park offers users 32 miles of trails where park visitors can traverse uphill and downhill through the forest passing wetlands and ponds scattered within the park. The park is popular with hikers, runners, equestrians, mountain bikers, bird watchers, orienteering groups and native plant enthusiasts.
The hill was named after Mitchell Lord, who purchased eighty acres on the hill in 1879 and homesteaded in 1884. Beginning in 1985, Snohomish County Parks secured the majority of the property from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington State Parks through reconveyance action.
As one of the largest parks in our county parks system at nearly 1,500 acres, Lord Hill Regional Park is an important regional park for not only the county, but the region. LHRP serves recreational needs for all of Snohomish County’s 800,000 residents and the many visitors who enjoy Snohomish County’s beautiful recreation areas. Regional parks and trails contain features that draw users from across the county and are highly valued by Snohomish County residents. The service area for regional parks and trails such as LHRP is county-wide. We know that with increasing use we need to adapt our trail system to create a safe and enjoyable experience for all users, whether they prefer to walk or ride.
Lord Hill Regional Park is a gem within the Snohomish County Parks system, one that we are looking ahead to preserve in light of our changing climate and growing population within the county and the region. As a regional park, Lord Hill is shared between many different recreational uses and we recognize there are opportunities to optimize the trail system of the park to improve user experience and safety. Lord Hill Regional Park is also mostly a natural area, and the Parks & Recreation Division is committed to preserving critical areas and habitat throughout the park.
Officially opened to the public in 1995 with 10 miles of trails, Lord Hill Regional Park has seen many changes over the past few decades. Much of the trail system evolved from social trails built over the years, including some of our most popular hiking trails. The "Lord Hill 2" parcel, acquired by Recreation & Conservation Office (RCO) funding, was also later added to the south edge of the park. As a result of the trail system developing over time, the trail system is rather undefined. The park also lacks accurate signage and wayfinding, and visitors may become easily lost. The organic nature of the trail system, clear designation of trails, poorly-designed intersections between trails, as well as the previously mentioned lack of signage have led to an increase in safety concerns from users in the park.
Building from the Master Plan originally published in 1988 and updated in 1996, the Parks & Recreation Division is looking to update our Preferred Plan for the park which includes an official trail plan, wayfinding signs and posts, detailed maps and expanded parking solutions to directly address these concerns.
This process has entailed collecting an immense amount of feedback from the public, spanning 2016-present. This includes:
- Public meetings, study groups and addressing public concerns 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021
- Pilchuck Audubon Bird Blitz 2017
- Washington Native Plant Society Plant Survey August + October 2017
- Public input from the 2021 Parks & Recreation Visioning Survey. While this was a survey asking about broad recreation interests, 800 comments were made specific to Lord Hill Regional Park. We have included that public input in this process
- Stakeholder meeting November 2021
- Public Meeting planned for November 16, 2021 via Zoom
We have consulted with community stakeholders representing diverse user groups including:
- Executive Horse Council of Snohomish County
- Backcountry Horsemen of America
- Washington Trails Association
- Friends of Lord Hill Regional Park
- Lord Hill Advocates
- Lord Hill Homeowners Association
- Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
- Local mountain bike teams
- Pilchuck Audubon Society
- Washington Native Plant Society
- Snohomish County Parks Advisory Board
- Everett Mountaineers
- Lord Hill Hikers
- 4-H Horses of Snohomish County
- Hannus Horse Group
- BuDu Racing
- Snohomish Student Cycling League
- Pilchuck Mountain Bike Club
- Cascade Orienteering
- Snohomish County Search and Rescue
- Snohomish and Monroe School Districts
- Trail Running groups
- Fishing enthusiasts
- Paddle craft enthusiasts
- Local community members
In 2021 a consultant team was hired to provide technical support for the Preferred Plan process. They will:
- Review and propose potential trail alignments
- Perform critical area studies and reconnaissance along new proposed trail alignments and at new trail crossings
- Document trail standards as part of Preferred Plan narrative
- Evaluate the feasibility of expanding parking at 150th St SE parking lot
- Geotechnical investigation for paving improvements and potential parking lot expansion at 150th St SE parking lot
- Support Parks in developing Preferred Plan graphics and narrative
There are four overarching goals that guide the preferred plan process and inform our decisions. These come directly from community feedback on priorities for Lord Hill Regional Park:
- Improve safety throughout the park through trail design and improved wayfinding for park users and emergency services
- Support a positive, shared recreational experience among multiple user groups
- Preserve the natural areas and character of the park
- Update the park to accommodate its capacity and role as a regional park while preserving the environment
We are working towards finalizing the Preferred Plan by June 2022, when the deadline to use our grant funding expires.
We have finished a proposed round of revisions to the trail system map based on stakeholder and community comments, although the overall concept and approach remain the same. Input at this time will inform the critical area studies and reconnaissance to be performed winter 2021/2022 as we work towards finalizing the plan.
We are hoping to get community feedback on how well the updated trail system map meets our goals (listed below). We also understand that trail design alone cannot solve all of the concerns for Lord Hill Regional Park. Part of the Preferred Plan will also be a wayfinding and signage plan. We also welcome other thoughts on how we can come together as a community to improve safety and ensure that all visitors can enjoy Lord Hill Regional Park.
Public Meeting November 16, 2021
An online survey will be released on 11/17/21, with the same information as the public presentation. This will be another way for Parks to gather the community’s feedback if they cannot attend the public meeting or prefer another way to communicate their thoughts. Information on joining the public meeting can be found here.
After the November meeting:
- Parks and the consultant team will then review the input received and will begin critical area studies and reconnaissance within the park, all of which will inform the next revision of the Preferred Plan.
- Another round of stakeholder and public input will be solicited in early spring 2022.
- The intention is to finalize the Preferred Plan by June 2022, when grant funding acquired to support this process expires.
The proposed mountain bike and equestrian designated trails will give users a more enjoyable experience, make the trail system safer for all users, and significantly reduce emergency agency responses by establishing a trail use system with waypoints and signage. This may make the park more attractive to additional users, but the available parking options will dictate the carrying capacity of the park, and a designated trail system will expand options for all users while reducing contact between types of use.
As the use of Lord Hill Regional Park has grown, the Parks & Recreation Division has heard many concerns about safely sharing the trails between user groups, especially between the equestrian and mountain bike communities. To address these concerns as well as in anticipation that the use of Lord Hill Regional Park will continue to grow, zones focusing on one type of recreation will be implemented. This updated trail system map follows these same principles already established.
By creating zoned areas of trails focused on one type of recreation (see map below), there are multiple benefits which include:
- Reduction of potential conflict between users by creating dedicated trails for different groups. This concentrates the types of recreation use in areas of the park and reduces the number of trails where multiple user groups may come into conflict.
- Optimization of trails within a recreation zone for safety and enjoyment by user group. For example, creating a wider path cleared down to mineral soil for equestrian use, which is not the approach for hiking-only use.
- Better control for interactions between user groups by signing intersections of dedicated trails with multi-use trails.
Multi-use trails are still the largest category of trail throughout the park and connect users to these zones and to points of interest. They need to be able to accommodate all types of users and handle the most traffic.
The east zone (purple), is focused on equestrian trails, which the equestrian community has expressed they are interested in sharing with hikers. The east area of the park is one of the quietest in the park, providing a more peaceful trail experience.
The southern zone (blue), is the area closest to the Snohomish River, and as such, all trails will be evaluated for critical areas and impact to be sensitive to the environment and habitat. Most trails are planned to be hiker-only, but some trails that connect to the river are planned as multi-use, as access to the river has been a priority for the community and all user groups.
The northwest zone (pink), is focused on mountain bike trails. Some trails will be for mountain bikes only, and some will be shared mountain bike/hiker trails. The terrain in this zone is the best suited for the loops of trails mountain bikers prefer.
Hiker-only trails extend throughout the park but are mainly focused in the central and southern areas. There have historically been a number of hiker-only trails, especially near critical habitat where only narrow trails are feasible.
This trail system map (see below) continues from the past five years of process and discussion, evaluating how user groups move through the site for both safety and enjoyment. It seeks to balance the desire for access among all user groups with safety and to preserve the experience of Lord Hill Regional Park as an island of nature within the urban fabric of Snohomish County.
It has been updated based on comments from the community, stakeholders, County staff and insight from the consultant team.
Consider this map as a subway-style map with the width of the trails exaggerated so they are visible. If the trails were as wide as shown on this map they would all be 50 feet wide (about the width of a 4-lane road)! In reality, our widest trails are many of our former logging roads and no wider than 12 feet.
Less than 75% of the park is currently developed, and this new plan preserves that. The target is to keep the mileage of trails in the park around 32 miles of total trail. The current update has the following mileage based on the type of trail:
Lord Hill Current Trail Use Plan Update
Decommissioned trails are not counted as part of the total trail mileage. Utility/Neighborhood Access trails are not counted as part of the total trail mileage, as the majority of this category is the entrance roads and parking lots, which do not function as trails.
WAYFINDING AND SIGNAGE PLAN
Modifying the trail system map to reduce conflict will help address the safety and use concerns at Lord Hill Regional Park, but cannot solve every problem. Another aspect of the Preferred Plan that will improve safety and user experience at Lord Hill Regional Park will be a wayfinding and signage plan.
A new trail system map that reflects the outcome of the Preferred Plan process will be posted at the park, posted on our website, and circulated online. The updated map will show which trails are designated for each user group, helping visitors navigate the park and understand which trails are open to them.
Signposts at trail intersections will indicate trail name, which users are allowed on the trail, and distance to relevant points of interest, such as the nearest parking lot. If you’ve been to Paradise Valley Conservation Area, these may look familiar!
Yield signs throughout the park, and other educational signage at the trailheads, will alert users to how to share the trails safely with multiple user groups.
Signage along trails and at intersections will alert users of upcoming intersections, trail crossings, trail merging, and other safety considerations.
Updated signage throughout the park will also help emergency services more quickly navigate the park to reach those who need assistance.
TRAIL DESIGN STANDARDS
At Lord Hill Regional Park, we primarily use the United States Forest Service standards as guidelines, which have detailed guidelines for hiking, equestrian, and bicycle trails. In some instances, International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) guidelines will be cross-referenced for trails that support mountain bike use, as IMBA has developed specialized guidance focused on creating and maintaining sustainable mountain biking opportunities.
TRAIL INTERSECTION DESIGN
There are many safety considerations that need to be examined when two trails meet, especially in instances where trail designations are different (for example, where a bike-only trail meets a multi-use trail). Some of these include but are not limited to: visual awareness of the intersection from both trails, slowed speed of users, and visibility of approaching traffic.
As part of the Preferred Plan process, all trail intersections are being evaluated for potential improvements that will help increase safety. There are many mechanisms that can be used, and each intersection may require different improvements depending on the designated use of the trails and how well the intersection currently functions.
Some potential strategies include:
- Signage, such as yield signs, slow speed signs, pedestrian ahead signs, and signs warning of trail crossings or merging ahead
- Alteration of the trail alignment such that a trail does not intersect a perpendicular trail directly, but instead winds back on itself and ideally directs users uphill, slowing speeds before the intersection
- Physical barriers across trails before an intersection prompting users to slow or dismount before an intersection