Five open space preservation projects near or in Issaquah, Enumclaw, Bothell and on Vashon Island are capping a busy year for King County’s land conservation efforts. In the face of rapid population growth and development pressure, the County took bold steps geared toward hastening open space investments and access in 2018, topped by the launch of the King County Land Conservation Initiative.
By safeguarding 365 acres from development in five separate December land deals, King County and its partners are capping a momentous year of work aimed at protecting vital and at-risk open spaces before it’s too late.
King County and several partners are finalizing protections this month for 46 acres of open space alongside Cougar Mountain in Issaquah, 108 acres on the May Creek side of Cougar Mountain, 155 acres just east of Enumclaw, five acres in Bothell and 51 acres on Vashon Island.
“Preserving this acreage showcases our innovative collaborations with local communities and land conservation partners,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This is exactly how our Land Conservation Initiative is intended to work – with creative regional partnerships that save forests, farmlands, and rivers – and ensure easy access to green space for all residents of King County.”
The five latest open space projects bring King County’s acquisition deals to 51 in 2018, protecting roughly 740 acres at a cost of about $16.3 million.
The preservation work is embodied in the Land Conservation Initiative (LCI) launched by Executive Constantine in 2018, which is intent on preserving 65,000 acres of remaining important open space lands within a generation (30 years) and before the opportunity is lost due to population growth and development pressure.
The LCI is a regional collaboration between the County and multiple partners, including 39 cities within King County and conservation groups such as The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, The Trust for Public Land, Forterra, The Wilderness Society, and The Nature Conservancy.
While long-term funding to protect all 65,000 acres in 30 years is not yet secured, the County expects to quicken land preservation by leveraging partnerships, creativity and LCI legislation approved last summer that enables the County to borrow more against future revenues from the existing Conservation Futures Tax (CFT) funding stream – as much as $148 million over the next four years. The CFT is a small property tax in place since 1982 (under 4 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value) that has helped purchase and protect forests, shorelines, greenways and trails.
The new LCI legislation also removed the financial match requirements for open space acquisitions for communities with the greatest and most acute needs that lack ready access to parks and green spaces. These are opportunity areas for open space investments where we can ensure communities are able to enjoy the recreation, health, and environmental benefits that nearby green spaces provide.
As part of its access commitment, King County also in 2018 established an Open Space Equity Cabinet composed of community leaders and residents to make recommendations on changes to King County code and the CFT grant program to help guide investments and eliminate open space inequities.
Here are the land preservation efforts wrapping up in December:
Bergsma property in Issaquah
The 46-acre parcel had been proposed for development, until a preservation plan was developed through a partnership with the City of Issaquah, The Trust for Public Land, and King County. The land connects parks, trails and open spaces; the master-planned Talus community; and a major transit center serviced by Trailhead Direct, King County’s transit-to-trails program. For its part of the agreement, King County would purchase the westernmost 12.5 acres, which adjoins its existing Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, for $355,000. King County Parks and the City of Issaquah will apply for 2019 CFT funding to finalize the deal.
DeLeo Farm property near Cougar Mountain
A long-term goal for King County Parks and local conservation advocates, and supported by City of Issaquah and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, is the acquisition of 108 acres of forested, undeveloped property on the slopes of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park in the May Creek Valley. This acquisition protects some of the last remaining forested and undeveloped parcels in an area of significant development, enhances wildlife habitat and provides the opportunity for future public access. The $2.5 million deal is expected to close by Dec. 21.
Little Lake Forest property near Enumclaw
King County Parks and Forterra partnered to preserve 155 acres of forestland for public use just east of Enumclaw. Featuring healthy forests, large meadows and a small lake, the land provides a connection to lowland forests, provides a habitat buffer between Enumclaw and working forest, and access to a network of recreational trails in the 80,000-acre Tomanamus Forest. The land was purchased by Forterra, which held the property while King County Parks raised the $1.59 million purchase amount to reimburse the land conservation and stewardship organization.
Frog Holler Forest property on Vashon Island
King County Parks preserved 51 additional acres to expand the 60-acre Frog Holler Forest on Vashon Island. The Vashon – Maury Island Land Trust has been a key partner in the establishment of Frog Holler Forest, linking local landowners with Parks staff to complete the $1.35 million dollar acquisition. Frog Holler is a recent addition to the island’s array of shoreline and forest open spaces. Parks will soon release an updated backcountry trail map for this well-used and well-loved community resource.
Wayne Golf Course property in Bothell
The City of Bothell, with help from King County, this month purchased the last five acres of the former Wayne Golf Course from Forterra, completing the preservation of the entire 89-acre property. Also supported by the community group OneBothell, the city’s newest park includes a portion of the Sammamish River and Waynita Creek. It is home to eagles, salmon, deer and more. About 23 acres are covered with a mature forest including Douglas fir, big leaf maple and western hemlock trees.
• King County Land Conservation Initiative
• The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust
• The Trust for Public Land
• The Wilderness Society
• The Nature Conservancy
Preserving this acreage showcases our innovative collaborations with local communities and land conservation partners. This is exactly how our Land Conservation Initiative is intended to work – with creative regional partnerships that save forests, farmlands, and rivers – and ensure easy access to green space for all residents of King County.
With King County growing by more than 50 people per day, these investments in our parks, open spaces and farmlands are essential measures to ensure healthy and vibrant communities, today and for future generations. In terms of our regional quality of life, natural environment and our economy, we need to look at investments in open space like investments in our built infrastructure – it’s all important to ensuring a high quality and healthy region.
I’m pleased that several of these recent acquisitions will preserve forests and link parks, trails and open spaces for residents in my district. As rapidly as this county is growing, we need to ensure our last best places are protected, and that all communities have good access to green spaces.
Protecting forests and open spaces like the 51 acres at Frog Holler Forest on Vashon Island do more than protect key aquifers and ecological functions. They provide important places to build community and allow people to take advantage of the well documented health benefits, both physical and mental, of green spaces.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Doug Williams, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4543
The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks works in support of sustainable and livable communities and a clean and healthy natural environment. Our mission is to foster environmental stewardship and strengthen communities by providing regional parks, protecting the region's water, air, land and natural habitats, and reducing, safely disposing of and creating resources from wastewater and solid waste.