People who bike or walk on the Burke-Gilman Trail in northeast Seattle have dealt with a lot of tough detours in recent years. But the detours are always for a good reason, such as the city or county rebuilding or repaving the trail, or because a landslide has washed out a section of the trail.
But the closure planned to start Monday is different. The trail will be closed for the morning commute until the afternoon so Seattle Parks can mow the slope next to the trail between NE 125th St and 42nd Pl NE. And because the slope is so steep, they are planning to use heavy machinery and must close the trail from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for a week.
Of course, the same steep slopes that make mowing difficult also make the detour difficult. The 900 or so feet of NE 125th Street climbs a stunning 138 feet. That’s a 15 percent grade climb for 900 feet, which is grueling even for strong and fit riders. I know slope grades are difficult numbers to understand, so I was trying to figure out a way to demonstrate just how steep that is. But then Google Street View did it for me:
I cannot remember another time that Seattle Parks has closed the trail for mowing in this location (I searched my decade-worth of emails and news releases and couldn’t find any significant trail closures for mowing anywhere in the region). A detour like this is a major reduction in service for trail users. There are a lot of users who simply cannot climb these hills and who may be on the trail specifically because it is an old railroad bed and is therefore very flat.
Sometimes trail closures are unavoidable. But is this one of those times? I have questions out to Seattle Parks and will update this post when I hear back.
The Burke-Gilman Trial is a vital transportation corridor, and it needs to be treated as such. Usable detours in this area are especially difficult to find because the only good option, Riviera Place NE, disappears for a short stretch just north of NE 125th Street. Maybe crews could create a detour along Riviera except when working on the short section near 125th where it’s not an option?
Parks also notes that this is only phase one of their mowing work. They do not yet have details on phase two.
Starting Monday, August 17, 2020, Seattle Parks and Recreation maintenance crews will begin Phase 1 of a two-phase slope mowing project with heavy machinery that requires partial closure of the Burke-Gilman trail. The closure will be in effect each day from 7am to 1:30pm between 145th St. NE and 125th Ave NE. At the end of each day’s work, signs and barricades will be removed so users can proceed normally. As the mowing proceeds, completed sections will re-open to trail users. Phase 1 is expected to take about one week to complete.
For trail users heading south or northbound: Depending on mowing progress, the trail’s intersection with 42nd Pl NE may have barricades and signage directing trail users to turn onto this street and continue up the hill. The detour then connects with 42nd Ave NE, which connects with NE 125th. From there, users can go east for a few blocks and intersect with the Burke-Gilman trail again. (See map below for outline of detour.)
The stairs at NE 130th St. that intersect with the Burke-Gilman trail will remain open, but barricades will close off access to the trail north and south of this location. Signage will also be posted along Riviera Pl NE, which parallels part of the Burke-Gilman, to prevent accessing the trail except at 130th NE.
Details for Phase 2 will be added here once crews have confirmed the completion of the first phase.