Field Notes: Snow snow go away

We’ve heard from our field crews, as well as from park and trail visitors, that the recent snow storm brought a whole host of incidents that affected our parks and trails. Snow and ice damaged structures, brought down trees and limbs, iced over parking lots and regional trails, and generally made a mess of everything.

Thankfully, our seasoned Parks’ operations and maintenance crews have been out battling the elements and making our parks, trails, and open spaces safe and usable.

King County Parks manages 200 parks, 175 miles of regional trails, and 28,000 acres of open space, and we do so with an efficient group of some 165 full-time employees. Organized into nine geographically-based field crews, two regional trails crews, one greenhouse crew, and four other county-wide crews (grounds, crafts, backcountry trails, and vegetation management), our operations and maintenance staff cover a lot of territory, from Duvall to Enumclaw, North Bend to White Center.

During our busiest times (generally, March to October), our field crews have the help of seasonal staff. But since the winter months are usually pretty quiet, we scale down.

Clearing trails on Cougar Mountain

Lately they’ve had their hands full making sure trees and limbs are getting removed from trails and parks, as the snow brought down lots of trees throughout our system. They’re also checking structures damaged by the storm and responding to other issues on top of their normal maintenance routines.

Thankfully, this type of snow incident doesn’t happen every year. When it does snow, it usually melts in a couple of days, so it’s more of a short-term inconvenience than a long-term safety hazard. But this year brought lasting snow, ice, and more damage than usual.

We have one piece of equipment, a grader, that we can use for plowing, and field crews use tractors to plow parking lots, but we loaned our equipment this particular snow-maggeddon to King County Roads, which needed all the help it could get to take care of King County’s unincorporated communities, clearing the way for emergency vehicles, buses, and residents.

Walkers along a snowy East Lake Sammamish Trail

We can’t use a traditional snow plow on our regional trails anyway, as they would do more harm than good. Maybe some day, a solution for these freak weather occurrences, like this bicycle snowplow, will be more readily available. Especially if weather keeps going to these extremes.

We do apologize to those stout and sturdy winter weather commuters that rely on our trails to get to work. We know you’re out there! We have counters on 11 trails and can tell that, even in the depths of winter, there’s an average of 249 cyclists that use our busiest trail, the Burke-Gilman, every day. We wish we could keep our trails free of snow and ice year-round for the handful of you super-users!

Hikers on Cougar Mountain

Thank you to everyone for your patience and understanding during this crazy winter onslaught. Let’s work together to make sure any issues are reported in a timely manner — by going to SeeClickFix and reporting downed trees or other issues and helping us take care of Your Big Backyard!

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