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Snoqualmie Point Park receives $500,000 boost

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SNOQUALMIE - A future park the city hopes to build just got a big boost from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Seattle-based foundation has donated $500,000 toward the building of new amenities at the Snoqualmie Point Park, which is located on the former site of the Snoqualmie Winery off Interstate 90's Exit 27.

The grant, which was applied for by the Mountains to Sound Greenway preservation group, will go toward the first of three phases of construction that could begin next year. The first phase of construction will include a bathroom, fire pit, trail access, a car turnaround and an improved parking area.

While most of the money from the Gates Foundation goes toward children in economically challenged areas, some grants are made to community development projects. A previous recipient of this kind of grant has been the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.

"This donation was made in that spirit," foundation Program Officer Valisa Smith said. "It's definitely an exception."

Snoqualmie City Parks Director Al Frank said the city hopes to find grants to pay for most of the park's estimated $2-million cost.

Since the winery shut down in 1997, its grounds remained a popular place to host events, including concerts, weddings and casual gatherings on its small lawn.

In 1998, the city gave approval to Snoqualmie Falls Winery Development Corporation, the owner of the winery, to sublease part of the property so an office park could be constructed.

After the winery burned down in 1999, Mountains to Sound Greenway teamed up with the Trust for Public Land to raise grant money to purchase and preserve the site and the city got Seattle landscape architecture and design firm Jones & Jones to design the park on a pro bono basis until more grant money is received.

"The master plan doesn't call for a lot of construction," said Snoqualmie Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher in a press release. "But it does lay out a plan to shape our eight acres into areas that will be attractive for different functions and uses."

The designs for the 8.5-acre park, which were approved by the city last year, has the same passive recreation feel that has highlighted other regional preservation efforts.

The amphitheater at the site will remain but the stage will be pushed closer to where the audience would sit. Seating for 200 will be provided with built-in, terrace-like seating while a lawn behind it will accommodate an additional 300 if it were to be used.

The most appealing part of the park, however, is already there with the view, and the plans are aimed at enhancing it. Viewing points will be highlighted at the park that offer a near panoramic and unobstructed view of everything from the Salish Lodge to the left, to I-90 disappearing into the Cascades to the right.

"Driving along I-90 is a pleasant experience for most people because unlike many interstate highways, it's not an endless commercial strip," said Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust Executive Director Nancy Keith in a press release. "But there are very few places in the Greenway where you get up above the forests and see the grand sweep of valleys and mountains. Snoqualmie Point is that place."

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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