It’s been well documented that the Issaquah Skate Park isn’t used for skating so much as it is for a place where drug deals go down, but the adjacent Rainier Trail, with small sheltered trails off the main, paved trail, has seen its share of trouble.
At an Issaquah City Council meeting in September, several residents expressed their concern. Many are not comfortable walking the trail anymore.
Christina Burney moved to old town Issaquah in 1991. She is one of the city’s walking ambassadors, and is concerned about the trail.
“No action is a disservice to our community,” Burney said.
She said getting rid of the skate park isn’t going to solve the problem. She’s seen drug deals go down on the trail. She said she has smelled funny odors, even fire, close to her home.
“If I called IPD every time, I may as well have an open line,” she said.
Judy Lally and Robert Clement who live nearby, helped with the spring clean-up along the trail this year. The litter they picked up included bits of aluminum foil, and coke cans with straws in the side — more than likely improvised drug paraphernalia.
Walking the trail on a bright autumn day before school is out, it doesn’t look too terribly sketchy. Lally and Clement said the action ramps up when school is out, since the trail is right in the middle of Issaquah High School and Issaquah Middle School properties. Older kids hang out in the parking lot adjacent to the community center, possibly waiting for school kids to come to the trail.
The city recently cut down a large tree and cleared out brush which provided a good hiding place, but the trouble hasn’t ended. Remnants of a very recent bonfire are close to a footbridge that leads to the Windsong Apartments at 600 Front St.
“They make fires to keep warm,” Clement said. “It’s just unnerving.”
Management at Windsong is unhappy with the situation.
“Windsong Apartments has experienced an increase in loitering, vandalism, and public intoxication in the recent few months and have felt it necessary to increase our courtesy patrol presence in response to this activity,” said spokesman Gregory Cerbana. “With our property being adjacent to the Rainier Trail, we’ve witnessed much of that traffic entering our community from that direction. The drug paraphernalia that’s been left behind is a real concern to us because of the number of residents that live in our apartments, and access the trail for legitimate recreational purposes. Neighboring properties that we communicate with on a regular basis have also reported seeing an increase in these sorts of episodes. We’ve worked closely with local law enforcement when necessary, and several arrests have resulted from their presence”.
IPD is well aware of the problems, and has increased its presence. IPD Chief Paul Ayers said they have put some extra manpower near the trail.
“This is not a new thing, but the calls were spiking up,” he said. “It’s a tough one to measure but I think the resources we’re putting in are helping.”
The problems are all south of the Issaquah Community Center where it’s very wooded and sheltered.
Jeff Tanka, a 23-year resident of old town Issaquah said unsavory element of all ages trespass, litter and are responsible for car prowls nearby. He said walkers have seen homeless camps on the trail and blatant drug use. A mother running on the trail was harassed. Families with small children are afraid to use the trail.
However, both Lally and Clement said it seems to be getting a little better since the council meeting when so many residents spoke of their frustration with the problems.
Robert Clement points to evidence of a recent bonfire near a wooden footbridge.
This wooden footbridge leads from the Rainier Trail to the nearby Windsong apartment community.