SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- A giant trail project that runs the length of the city of Sammamish has neighbors downright livid. They believe what King County is doing is illegal and costing them and taxpayers thousands of dollars.
The trail will ultimately connect to the Issaquah Trail to the south and the Burke-Gilman Trail in the north, but getting there has been an uphill battle. The trail is built on an old rail easement that was turned over to the county, which opened it to the public in March 2006. It runs right along and, many times, right into these people’s properties.
"We want the trail too. It’s just how they’re putting it in. Moving the trail towards the homes when they have room to move it away from the homes," said neighbor Greg Chapman.
King County recently started paving the northern portion. Doug Williams with the King County Department of Parks said they should have that section done by next spring. The trail will be 12-feet-wide with two-foot buffers on either side. In some cases, neighbors said it’s creating a safety hazard because their own driveways are now too narrow for emergency vehicles.
"The county cares more about not changing their design than they do about the safety of my wife, myself," said George Toskey.
To widen the trail, the county has torn down countless old trees. Neighbors said it has cost them tens of thousands of dollars in landscaping and retaining walls. They add there's been little to no compensation and they question if it’s even legal.
"The rock wall below is getting taken out just so they can put another retaining wall in. It doesn't make sense,” said Chapman.
Speaking of cost, this trail runs about $6.2 million with roughly half of that coming from federal grants and the remainder from a county parks levy. The public hearings have been packed with these neighbors voicing their concerns over the changes, but none feel like they’re being listened to. The county said the alignment of the trail can be tricky. In some cases, there may be a steep slope or wetland which forces the trail off the center line and into someone like Mike Collin’s yard.
"We don’t mind sharing but it’s a pretty big change," said Collins.
There are two more sections of this trail that still need to be completed to the south.
"It just feels like a double standard as far as tree retention of what citizens have to do and what the county is doing," said Sammamish City Council member Ramiro Valderrama.
Valderrama wants the whole council to make sure these complaints are ironed out before they permit the county to continue their work.