WOODINVILLE, Wash. -- Fire danger remains high around the Northwest, and neighbors at an old, closed golf course in Snohomish County are worried they are one tossed cigarette away from a major fire.
“It would just go up like a big bomb,” said Larry Nelson, who lives near the former Wellington Hills Golf Course in Woodinville.
The 100-acre golf course closed in 2012. Snohomish County Parks took it over, and the long-term plan is to build new, lighted soccer and baseball fields. It’s a plan that a lot of neighbors around the area are already against.
“It would take away the neighborhood ambiance,” said David Ondrasik. “It’ll be like too much traffic and too much lights.”
The plan for a sports complex is still a year or two away, so for now the county has transformed the property into a public park.
With the dry, hot conditions this summer, neighbors have been nervously watching as the brown grass grows taller, creating fuel for a potential brush fire.
“This is not a year to discard a cigarette, or play with any kind of fire,” said Tom Teigen, Snohomish County Parks director.
Teigen says he’s also concerned about fire, but the tall growth at the park is actually part of a plan to let Wellington Hills, and many other parks, go back to their natural state. It saves money, and the environment.
“This is an 11,000-acre park system,” said Teigen. “We have 107 parks, and we’re doing this system-wide. If you’re not in a design space, where there’s a ball field, a playfield, or a playground , we’re letting it go natural.”
Despite the tinder dry conditions at the park, Teigen says the county is sticking to the plan.
Neighbors remain concerned, and some are staring to patrol the park, looking for smoke or flame, and wishing the dry brush would be cut back.