North Bend residents living along Mt. Si Road and near Rattlesnake Lake have taken to social media the past two weekends in frustration as they witnessed some hikers ignoring the statewide Stay Home order and trail closures in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This is the second consecutive weekend tow trucks have responded to illegally parked vehicles along Mt. Si Road. Trailhead parking lots are closed with warning signs posted alerting hikers of closure in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Most areas along Mt Si Road near the trailheads, except for a small section, are no parking zones.
One resident said on Saturday, April 4th, there were about 25-30 cars parked on the upper road used to access upper trailheads and in the SVSD bus turnaround near the closed Mt. Teneriffe parking lot.
That person [who didn’t want their name used] said, “What gets residents up here upset is if there are at least 2 people in each car, that means 50+ people from out of town, bringing their germs to our trails, stopping at our gas stations, our grocery stores, potentially spreading their germs.”
On Saturday evening King County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Ryan Abott said they’ve been sending all Stay Home order complaints to the Department of Health, adding, “if they need our assistance they they will ask us.”
KCSO stated after the Stay Home order was enacted on March 23rd that their role, if deputies see banned gatherings, would be educational – reminding people of the governor’s restrictions. At that time KCSO said the governor had not requested law enforcement actively enforce the stay home order.
By Sunday morning, April 5th, more cars and hikers returned to Mt Si Road One resident witnessed a truck parking in front of a no parking sign, the driver putting on his backpack and then proceeding underneath the the yellow tape closing off the trailhead. Another resident witnessed two hikers walking past the closed gate at the Mt. Teneriffe trailhead, heading toward the trail.
By 2PM King County Sheriff Office Deputies and tow trucks were spotted on Mt Si Road. Two vehicles were being towed, one appeared to be the illegally parked pickup truck. [See video below]
Sgt. Abott commented, “KCSO Deputies spent some of the weekend educating the public and will continue as needed to remind people of the importance of the Stay Home order.”
Residents can report potential violations of the Stay Home order to the KCSO non-emergency line at 206-296-1608. If there is no answer, callers are asked to leave a message. KCSO said it will have a 24/7 number available ASAP.
The CDC and the Washington State Department of Health recommend people get outdoor exercise in their own neighborhoods while using social distancing. They recommend ceasing optional car trips, only going out get groceries, medications and other essentials.
Staying off trails during the Stay Home order also protects Search and Rescue volunteers and avoids the use of already-limited Personal Protective Equipment on rescues that could have been avoided. Hiking injuries, if they occur, can also increase the strain on the healthcare system and other critical services, especially in rural communities.
This week Governor Inslee extended the statewide Stay Home Stay Healthy order to May 4th.