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Hearings board will rule on trails plan by March 11

POULSBO — Members of the Growth Management Hearings Board are expected to rule by March 11 on a challenge to Poulsbo’s Urban Trails Plan.

The board heard testimony Jan. 28 from three Poulsbo residents that a trail in West Poulsbo would harm Johnson Creek, a salmon-bearing stream and city-designated wildlife corridor.

City officials say the trail is conceptual only — a line on a map noting where a trail would be located only if property owners agree to it in the future. But a portion of that line is drawn onto Rita Hagwell’s property; she opposes a trail there and fears the conceptual line diminishes her property value and is the first step toward a taking.

Should she decide to sell her property in the future, “buyers will be deterred when informed that a public trail system will adversely impact their exclusive use of the property,” according to the complaint.

The other petitioners are Molly Lee and Jan Wold, who also own property in the Johnson Creek watershed.

Board members Margaret Pageler, Cheryl Pflug and Chuck Mosher said they will issue a ruling by March 11.

Specifically, the three petitioners say the City of Poulsbo failed to appropriately consider private property rights when enacting the trails plan, made changes to the trails plan without public notification, and failed to give special consideration to conservation or protection measures necessary to preserve or enhance fish and wildlife as required by state law.

The proposed trail is included in the Urban Paths of Poulsbo plan, a network of pedestrian ways that connects to a regional network of trails. That regional network, in turn, connects to a network of trails that stretches across the state. The West Poulsbo portion is within the city’s Urban Growth Area, so development of a trail there would require annexation as well as permission from property owners.

But petitioners say the city was arbitrary in how it came up with trail sites — a proposed trail on Bjorgen Creek was removed, yet a proposed trail along Johnson Creek, a salmon-bearing stream and city-designated wildlife corridor, remains on the plan.

City officials say they hope a Johnson Creek-area trail would someday connect to the Clear Creek trail, which winds south to Dyes Inlet.

“I am quite concerned about the terrible and unnecessary impact to fish, wildlife and the environment if Poulsbo follows through with the trails the city is proposing next to creeks and on the water's edge around all of Liberty Bay,” Wold said before the hearing. “I think trails are a great idea and I have decades of experience planning, working on and using thousands of miles of trails in the Forest Service. Trails need to be sited in an intelligent fashion and many of these proposed Poulsbo trails aren't.”

Mayor Becky Erickson said later that the city was responsive to petitioners concerns for the creek, and broadened the buffer between trail and creek to 300 feet.

The petitioners have also questioned the legality of Poulsbo City Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist’s advocacy for the Johnson Creek-area trail; the trail would go through a portion of property she owns and wants to develop, and she is also president of the North Kitsap Trails Association. The trails association has long worked to develop a network of land and water trails in North Kitsap.

“There is no evidence of any wrongdoing on her part,” City Attorney James Haney said.

 

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