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Volunteers joining Tollgate group

NORTH BEND - At least 30 people have joined a citizens group formed to preserve Tollgate Farm from development.

The volunteers are from North Bend and other areas in the Valley. Their mission is to educate the public on the historic farm's importance to the Valley, raise money to support a $3 million bond campaign that will be voted on Sept. 18, and to get voters to the polls that day.

The bond campaign steering committee is called "Friends of Tollgate Farm," and is supported by separate, smaller committees. It takes its name from an organization created earlier this year to oppose development of the site.

More people are welcome to join the effort, said North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson. Monetary donations are also needed for creating pamphlets, signs and other campaign paraphernalia.

Simpson and City Council members are allowed to join the bond campaign committee as citizens, as long as they don't use city time or facilities for their activities.

The mayor said no matter who volunteers for the committee, which has yet to select a chairperson, preserving Tollgate Farm is in the interest of everyone.

"Tollgate is a regional asset, and we believe there is a substantial community benefit for the acquisition of the property," Simpson said.

Tollgate Farm is comprised of 409 acres and is located in North Bend. It was used by Native Americans and early Valley settlers, and it supported several different farm operations. The property's owners, the Miller family, which has owned the land since 1908, had planned to develop a 1 million-square-foot industrial park and a 34-lot residential subdivision on the site.

With the cooperation of The Trust for Public Lands and King County, North Bend will help buy the Tollgate Farm property in three phases. King County will contribute $3 million in 2001, and County Executive Ron Sims said he will ask for an additional $2 million in 2002 and 2003.

If the bond measure on the Sept. 18 primary-election ballot is approved by voters, North Bend would spend $3 million to help buy the land. Once all three phases of the acquisition are completed, the land would be jointly owned by the city and county.

An exact appraisal of the land has not been completed, but it is currently estimated to be between $12 million to $14 million. If the city and county fail to buy the land, plans to develop Tollgate Farm would continue.

Friends of Tollgate Farm meets every Monday night at various locations. To join, call Joan Simpson at (425) 888-0224 or Bill Wittress at (425) 785-8425.

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