Officials want docks, fences removed for Seattle-area trail

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SEATTLE (AP) — Officials want the owners of about 150 properties along a Washington state lake to remove docks, boat lifts, decks, driveways, fences, landscaping and other amenities that stand in the way of completing a long-anticipated paved trail through the area.

King County sent letters this week to the property owners along the East Lake Sammamish Trail, east of Seattle, telling them to remove any personal property by September so that construction can begin as planned next year. The county said that if the homeowners don’t, it will — and it may charge them for it.

In addition, the county filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the owners of several million-dollar properties, seeking a declaration that the county owns the former railroad corridor where the trail is being built and that their boat docks and other structures must be “ejected.”

“We don’t want to get people mad or cause a lot of undue angst,” Sujata Goel, government relations administrator for King County Parks, said Wednesday. “What we are really hoping for is a quiet resolution. Our ultimate goal is to finish this trail. It’s been 20 years in the making.”

The East Lake Sammamish Trail is an 11-mile (17.7 km) section in a larger 44-mile (70.8 km) trail system that will link Seattle’s waterfront to the Cascade Mountains — and the Iron Horse Trail, which runs across the state. All of the East Lake Sammamish Trail is paved except for a final 3.6-mile (5.8 km) stretch.

The county acquired the former rail corridor in 1998 and has withstood several legal challenges to its ownership from homeowners. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear homeowners’ appeal of rulings affirming the county’s effective ownership of the rail corridor.

The county installed a gravel trail in 2006. The trail cut between some of the homes and the lake.

An organization representing some of the property owners, Sammamish Home Owners, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday. Nor did Patricia Harrell, who owns a home and land assessed at $2.2 million, and who has filed a land-use appeal challenging the county’s ownership of the shoreline.

It was that appeal that prompted the county to file the federal lawsuit, deputy Parks director Katy Terry said. The county hopes a declaration from the U.S. District Court will make clear that it can proceed with the paving without delay.

Officials hope to finish the trail in time for bicycle commuters to use it to reach the new light-rail extension from downtown Redmond to Seattle in 2024. The project also includes six new structures for fish passage, designed to help recover runs of native freshwater salmon called kokanee.

Among the encroaching facilities is a hard-surface court for playing pickleball, a game invented in the area in the mid-1960s that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong, the county said.

The eight property owners being sued collectively have six boat docks, some of which are connected to utilities.

Removing the docks is key to providing more public access to Lake Sammamish, which is dominated by private property, the county said.

“Defendants’ use of public lands without permission and without cost to enhance their homes and estates near Lake Sammamish by building and maintaining docks, boat lifts, cabanas, decks, walkways, hardscaping, fences and other structures constitutes trespass,” the lawsuit says. “Their encroachments and uses should be ejected and payments made for remediation and restoration of the public lands, along with the payment of back rents.”

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An earlier version of this story misattributed the quotation in the fourth paragraph. The speaker was Sujata Goel, government relations administrator for King County Parks, not deputy Parks director Katy Terry.

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