Access to Open Spaces Is an Important Part of a Great Community

In addition to beautiful neighborhoods, Sammamish is blessed with a healthy supply of open spaces, including parks, recreation areas, natural preserves and other places that promote physical activity and improved health. Our open spaces sustain and enhance the environment, and enable people to enjoy nature quietly or mingle with others.

But the city lacks a fully connected network of trails, paths, sidewalks and other links for walking and bicycling that would enable people to access open spaces and other parts of the community without having to drive. As we note in the article “Walkability in Sammamish: A Key to Reducing Traffic Congestion,” our city has one of the lowest “walkability” scores of any community in the state. Sammamish’s score was 12; Issaquah came in at 30, Redmond 32 and Bellevue 40.

The good news is that the city has adopted a comprehensive strategy to address this need as part of the 2018 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan (PRO Plan).

The 2018 PRO Plan updates and builds on the previous plan adopted in 2012. It is a complementary document to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Town Center Plan, Economic Development Strategy and other adopted policies that together create a thorough, integrated approach to enhancing the community while preserving its unique character and livability. And like these other policy documents, the 2018 PRO Plan was created through an extensive public involvement process in which more than 1,000 people in the community participated.

The Plan “creates a vision for an innovative, inclusive and interconnected system of parks, trails and open spaces that promotes recreation, health and environmental conservation as integral elements of a thriving, livable Sammamish.” The Plan highlights the importance of linking the community with a system of pedestrian and bicycle connections:

“Sammamish residents desire to have connecting routes to local places that include home, work, school, shopping, play and access to nature. This need for healthy, recreational corridors requires a complete hierarchy of trails that range in scale from regional, multi-use paved trails to local park pathways. The recreational trail system will also connect to public sidewalks and urban plazas that function within public rights-of-way. The future target for Sammamish will be a connected recreational trail network that is integrated into the City’s active transportation system to provide seamless access throughout the community.”

In addition to health, environmental, transportation and other benefits, the 2018 PRO Plan notes that recreational trails are real estate assets that contribute to economic health by enhancing home values.

The Plan identifies five priority trail locations and connections:

• Emerald Necklace Trail, a regional loop connecting Soaring Eagle Regional Park to Lake Sammamish

• Sammamish Commons & Town Center Trail, connecting the Commons and Town Center to Big Rock Park

• Plateau Trail, completing missing sections along the Utility Corridor Trail

• Town Center to Plateau Trail, connecting near Eastlake High School

• Town Center to Lake Sammamish, linking along SE 8th Street

It’s not surprising that three of the five listed priority trails involve the Town Center. It is a key component of many of the City’s adopted strategies for managing growth and promoting the community’s viability and livability. The Town Center is specifically intended to provide and promote access to more housing choices, shopping, restaurants, services and other amenities by means other than driving, and to be a central connection point linking the neighborhoods to the heart of the city.

The 2018 PRO Plan describes in detail the Green Spine that will connect the Town Center to the Commons and link to surrounding neighborhoods as an unobstructed north to south pedestrian corridor with pedestrian connections every 40 feet along its entire length. It specifically references the Sammamish Town Center Plan, which notes that the development of the Town Center “offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop critical pedestrian and bicycle links that will benefit the whole city.”

Trails are only one important component of the 2018 PRO Plan, which also inventories and establishes goals and strategies for parks, recreation areas and programs, and other open spaces. The comprehensive trail system identified in the plan links all these elements and features — from Pine Lake, Beaver Lake and Lake Sammamish, to Evans Creek Preserve, school grounds and other facilities, and the King County regional trails system, to the Town Center, Big Rock Park, the Commons, the YMCA and Community Center, and the city’s neighborhoods.

A community survey conducted in 2017 as part of the development of the 2018 PRO Plan found that the top reason for visiting local parks in the last year was walking using trails, jogging and/or running (76%), and trails for walking and biking were identified as the top priority for increases in infrastructure that support passive use (78%).

The plan notes that there are challenges to completing all the recommended links for Sammamish’s non-motorized trail network. Sammamish has the plans in place for a bright future. We need City leaders who know how to bring together the staff and our community to work in unison to achieve these results. We need more parks and trails, not paralysis.