County declines Snoqualmie offer to maintain Three Forks

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SNOQUALMIE - King County officials have rejected an offer from the city of Snoqualmie to manage the Three Forks Natural Area.

Snoqualmie City Administrator Gary Armstrong said the offer was made to the county in order to ensure the area was not developed into a highly developed urban park, such as Marymoor Park in Redmond.

"We didn't want the area to be improved too much," Armstrong said.

Some county officials have said that since the land was purchased by the county, it should remain under county control. Greg Hirakawa, a legislative aid for Councilman Larry Phillips, who is chairman of the Natural Resources, Parks and Open Spaces Committee, said the county will keep to the rural vision outlined in the master plan that was approved last year.

"An important thing to remember is that the county paid for this. It gets to be used by everyone from Tukwila to Redmond," Hirakawa said. "And this is all done with citizen's input. There are not going to be any ballfields. None of that stuff is coming in."

The master plan for the 418-acre park, released in May 1998, had a total of $5.2 million in capital improvement projects listed for the site, but that was scaled down to about $1.6 million after an amendment sponsored by District 12 Councilman Dave Irons passed last year.

Although a majority of the project was eliminated by the amendment, it is still not a hit with residents who live on Reinig Road, which runs along the northern border of the natural area. At a meeting in October, residents complained that an established park will draw more traffic to the already popular natural spot, damaging the wildlife in the area.

"I have lived in Washington all my life and I will tell you that if you build that park, all the animals in there will die," said Eleanor Gilmore, who lives on 428th Avenue Southeast.

Residents need not worry about the park destroying the rural state of the area, according to Al Dams, spokesman for King County Park System.

"People should not be concerned about that," he said. "The projects are spelled out in the master plan and they are clearly minimal."

Irons expressed concern that the master plan could be amended by future County Councils to include items that were taken out of the original plan. He favored giving the park to Snoqualmie to ensure its use addresses the concerns of neighboring residents.

"We have parks in a number of communities that have been given to the cities," Irons said. "We are putting money on the table if they will take over the parks."

Although Dams said park plans have been changed in the past to reflect more people using them, he said the Three Forks Natural Area would remain rural. Unlike other parks that have been given to the municipalities they border, such as Luther Burbank Park in Mercer Island and Juanita Beach in Kirkland, he said Three Forks will remain a rural park since it is surrounded by other public open spaces.

"This is a different kind of park than Marymoor," he said. "We are not going to degrade the resource value of these parks."

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