Redmond neighborhood at risk of losing walkable access to Smith Woods

Residents are reaching out to the city of Redmond for other access options.

The Morning Meadows community, a North Redmond neighborhood since 1979, is at risk of losing public walking access to the Smith Woods park and trails.

Smith Woods park currently has at least one access point on each side of the park. The North border of the park has an access point contingent to the Morning Meadows development and is on private property, according to Carrie Hite, the parks and recreation director of Redmond.

Morning Meadows residents have been accessing Smith Woods through the current Smith Woods access point for more than 10 years. In recent months the owners of the private property have added fences, restricting the convenient access. Hite says the city has been trying to work with the property owners to figure out a way to gain easement to make it an official access point to Smith woods.

“We have not been successful in that we’ve had two other property owners experience some privacy issues and break in issues,” Hite said. “They have wanted to add fences to their property lines which they have done.”

Smith Woods has been a staple in the North Redmond area for many years. In 2000 the city of Redmond acquired the five acres to the East of 176th Avenue Northeast, the western wooded parcel, from Don and Elaine Smith.

Don had spent many years of his life preserving his land in hopes of one day creating a public park.

“He loved his property and planted many of the trees that now stand there,” said Nancy Schuldt, friend and former neighbor of the Smiths, as well as a Morning Meadows resident for the past 30 years. “He and his wife sold their 10 acres to the city of Redmond so that it would be used as a city park and everyone could enjoy its serene beauty.”

In 2011 the city acquired the eastern parcel of the property, which had the Smith’s house and is more open.

Since the expansion of the park in 2011, the residents of the Morning Meadows development have been using the park as a shortcut to walk to Redmond, a spot for kids to play, and it has been used to get to and from school by Redmond High School students living within the development.

During a parks and trails committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6, many Morning Meadows residents expressed their concern that losing walkable access to Smith Woods would be life changing. The loss of access means reaching the park requires a drive of more than two miles, in comparison, by foot the distance is less than half a mile.

“We respect people’s property, but we would just like another option,” said LeAnne Ludwig, the forest steward for Smith Woods and a Morning Meadows resident.

As the forest steward, Ludwig has spent the last couple years cleaning up the park by eliminating invasive plant species and keeping trials clear and walkable.

“I want as many people to use this park as possible,” Ludwig said. “It is a beautiful park — everyone should enjoy it.”

According to Ludwig and other residents, the access point does not have to be in the spot that it is currently, and they hope the city of Redmond and King County can work together to find a solution.

“The problem for Morning Meadows is without that access they’ve had [at the current location] it is a long way around. We definitely see the inconvenience,” said Jeff Aken, senior parks planner for the city of Redmond. “That [current access point] I would say is on pause right now, just because there hasn’t been interest in that community of people having an easement run through their backyard and proximity. We’ve been casting a wider net now to see what other access options may exist.”

Due to wetlands and densely wooded areas within Smith Woods it has been a difficult process for the city searching for a location that would suit a walkable access point for the residents of Morning Meadows and surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’ve done some preliminary analysis but have struggled just with the layout and private property holdings. There’s not a lot of convenient options that give the same kind of convenience they have now in terms of shorter walking distance to the park,” Aken said.