Lawton Park damaged

Trailblazers did so without authorization

Amid the dense greenery of Lawton Park, a wide dirt trail mirrors the gravel-walking path, almost looking like it belongs beneath the umbrella of trees. But upon closer inspection, the roots and stems of the plants have been uprooted to make room for the unauthorized trail.

"This is hard to see," said Barbara Downward, a volunteer park steward who has spent many hours on forest restoration for Lawton Park. "There's already a lot of foliage that's been damaged."

The trail, which appeared in the last week of June at the edge of the park near 29th Avenue West and West Emerson Street, now extends more than 300 feet and roomy enough for two persons to walk side-by-side, or BMX bikes to stream through.

Magnolia resident Scott Lynn, who walks through the park every day, suspects the trail was created by those looking for an adventurous ride on their bicycles. Though Lynn admits the teenager in him finds the trail more than appealing, he emphasized the issue behind the trail remains the destruction of the forest restoration.

"People are putting lots of hours and money into restoration, and it's getting shredded," Lynn said. "It's a destruction of a nice, quiet, green valley; the nature of that is altered drastically by these people's efforts."

Though the rapid appearance and the growth of the ad hoc trail astonished Downward, what she found even more disconcerting was the evident organization of the trail makers. Despite the presence of torn and uprooted greenery, whoever foraged the trail took care to not remove any of the young cedar trees. And of the destroyed foliage, very little obstructed the trail.

"I think they've been fairly sensitive to the trees we've planted," Downward said. "However, this isn't authorized activity." But, Downward added, the consideration for the young cedars may be irrelevant because the exposure of their roots decreases their chances for survival.

Apart from the destruction of the greenbelt, Downward and Lynn noted the presence of bicyclists created a risk for pedestrians using the walking path-particularly the children who use the path as a walking bus route to Lawton Elementary School.

Though neither Downward nor Lynn have seen bicyclists using the trail or making it, the Seattle Parks and Recreation will target bicyclists in his efforts to deter the trail's growth or usage.

According to Cynthia Thurmond, the Central West Crew Chief for Seattle Parks and Recreation, signs will soon be up in the park asking bicyclists to stop their activity. The signs will also give locations where bicyclists are welcome.

"Then we're just going to rake back the native material over the path they made and place some large rocks at each end to send a strong message. I'm pretty sure that'll at least give them the hint that we don't want them in the park," Thurmond said. "We're pretty confident we'll be able to lead them in a different direction where they can do their activity and not destroy our greenbelt."[[In-content Ad]]