After concerns were raised from users of the Interurban Trail and patrons of the Red Dragon Casino in Mountlake Terrace, an illegal homeless encampment on undeveloped private property has been cleared out along Highway 99.
The work was a joint effort of the Mountlake Terrace Police Department and Red Dragon Casino, owner of a parking lot that made up part of the property littered with garbage, drug paraphernalia, car parts and other materials.
The wooded area along the east side of the 21700 block of Highway 99 and adjacent to the Interurban Trail has been cleared of almost all of its underbrush and will now receive regular maintenance, said Alex DeHaven, facilities manager for Washington Gold Casinos, owner of the Red Dragon Casino.
The property around the parking lot will also soon be getting some landscaping upgrades and additional lighting, DeHaven said.
“We heard from casino customers who didn’t want to park in that lot at night,” DeHaven explained.
The lot, which has space for nearly 50 vehicles, sits approximately 200 feet north of the actual casino on the northeast corner of Highway 99 and 220th Street Southwest. Managers at the Red Dragon say the lot is needed for casino visitors, especially on weekend evenings when parking availability directly around the casino fills.
Casino patrons didn’t want to park in the north lot and make the walk past the wooded land due to safety concerns and the trash that was collecting there, DeHaven said.
“The parking lot was filled with garbage and car parts,” DeHaven said of its recent condition. “I bought a firehose and sprayed down the entire lot.”
Now DeHaven is using the hose to water down the wooded area, hoping that some grass seed will take root and grow where underbrush had been removed. Twenty 40-yard waste dumpsters of underbrush and debris were removed from the site this month and taken to the Southwest Recycling and Transfer Station in Mountlake Terrace.
Twenty-one bales of hay were also scattered on the site to help prevent erosion.
DeHaven and Washington Gold Casinos is providing all the on-site work even though half of the area affected is owned by a different corporation.
Removal of the debris and underbrush revealed just how advantageous the location was for homeless to camp. In addition to being located adjacent to Highway 99 and the Interurban Trail, the property included an electrical panel that had four exterior operating outlets. Police found that homeless camping on the property were using to outlets to power a heater, a refrigerator and other electronic items. The panel has since been disabled.
The property also includes an old brick-lined well that DeHaven believes could be as much as 70 feet deep.
DeHaven has continued working on clearing the property since the Mountlake Terrace Police Department cleared the homeless from the site just after Memorial Day. He estimates the cost to Washington Gold Casinos to clean up the area will total around $50,000.
–By Doug Petrowski