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Snoqualmie Tribe and county working toward park deal

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FALL CITY - All that is left for approval of the plan to let the Snoqualmie Tribe acquire the Fall City Park from King County is both sides coming to terms on a preservation plan regarding an historical hop shed located on the property.

The hop shed on the grounds of the 27-acre park, which is located off State Route 203 on the north bank of the Snoqualmie River, is a King County historical landmark and is preserved according to strict guidelines of which any future tenant of the park must also adhere.

"We have a good productive relationship with the Tribe," said Charlie Sundberg of the King County Historic Preservation Program. "I don't think this will end up being a problem."

The Tribe approached the county last year about the possibility of acquiring parks in the county's park system. Due to their historical and cultural relevance to the Tribe, the Fall City Park in Fall City and the Tolt-MacDonald Park in Carnation were picked by the Tribe as ideal land to repatriate. The cash-strapped county was eager to hand over the Fall City Park but wanted to retain Tolt-MacDonald Park and has worked with the Tribe during the last few months on a deal that would keep the park as public open space, but change ownership to the Tribe.

"We had a draft transfer agreement but there were a couple of lingering questions," said Snoqualmie Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson. "There has been some difficulty with the hop shed."

Before Weyerhaeuser began logging in the 1910s, hop farming was the major industry in the Valley. Valley pioneer Jeremiah Borst and three partners helped set up what they called the largest hop farm in the world on Meadowbrook Farm. The hops were shipped all over the world and helped get a railroad line built to the Valley. After the market fell out for hops in the 1890s due to an aphid infestation and global overproduction, farms disappeared from the Valley.

Hop sheds were common on hop farms as a way to dry the crop, which was primarily harvested for its resin used to flavor beer. It is unknown exactly when the hop shed at the Fall City Park was built or where it was originally standing, but Sundberg said it is the only known hop shed in King County. There are only a few others in the state that represent the particular industry and time in Washington's history.

"Given the scale and significance of the history, having some physical reminder of that is important from a historical perspective," Sundberg said.

Mattson said that the shed, albeit historical, can conjure up bad feelings with Native Americans. Although members of the Tribe were employed by the hop farms, Mattson said the relationship between Native Americans and the settlers that owned the hop farms was not always an amiable one.

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