Center will showcase Meadowbrook history

UPPER VALLEY - Valley residents will soon be able to enjoy more activities on Meadowbrook Farm.

An interpretive center will be constructed on the historically significant land that will provide year-round space for education, study and meetings. It will be located between Boalch Avenue and State Route 202, just north of Gardiner Creek.

The building will be used for school field trips and classes, and the Meadowbrook Farm Preservation Association (MFPA) will use it as a base from which to study the natural and historical aspects of the farmland.

"I call [Meadowbrook Farm] historic open space because a lot has happened there in human history, and just because now it's open land with no buildings on it, I don't want people to forget about that," said Greg Watson, administrator for the MFPA. "It's directly connected with Native American legends, Native American history and all of the major eras of European American history in the Upper Valley."

Watson said the open space was a food-gathering prairie cleared by Native Americans for thousands of years. Trees were burned every few years so camas and lily bulbs, bracken fern and native berries could grow without interference.

"Meadowbrook Farm right now probably has less human presence and more trees on it than it's had in the past few thousands of years, maybe since the glaciers left," he said.

When the European settlers arrived in the 1800s, a variety of farms were established. Since then, Meadowbrook land has continually been used for agriculture, and has been home to hops, corn, a dairy farm and an evaporated milk cannery.

Valley residents can learn that history, as well as the geology of the land and its wildlife once the interpretive center is built. The building will be about 2,500 square feet in size and will look like a cross between a Native American longhouse and a late 1800s-style barn. The building will have restroom facilities, skylights and a place for artifacts and photographs.

Construction of the building could start as early as this summer. Currently, its plans are going through the permitting process in the city of North Bend, since the structure will be located within that city's limits. The 450-acre farm was jointly purchased by the cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie, but the public has not had much of an opportunity to learn about it because facilities have not yet been constructed.

"I think it will facilitate the public's use of the property where even though the process has been going on for a number of years and the public has actually owned the property, very few have actually used it," said Mary Norton, MFPA member. "Meadowbrook has seemed to me to lead sort of a charmed life of its own in the fact that it is so very special and we've been able to put it into public ownership, and the interpretive center will be a helpful piece to let the people who own the property use it more easily and in a bigger variety of ways, and that's very satisfying."

Because of the property's natural beauty, the interpretive center was designed to fit in with its surroundings.

"Unless you're looking for it, you won't see it," Watson said. "It's intended to blend in with the landscape." He explained that the building will be "light" on the land, made with carefully selected materials and surrounded by native foliage. A gravel driveway will be installed instead of a paved one, and there will be no resulting light pollution from the building.

"There's so much natural history to be investigated on Meadowbrook," Norton said. "It greatly increases the use of the property to have a year-round facility, so what this will be designed for is a place to be opened up and used on sunny days for the beautiful views that Meadowbrook is known for, and will be closed up, heated and used during any sort of inclement weather."

The interpretive center was part of the Meadowbrook master site plan that was approved in 1999, and funding has been sought since then to add facilities. The city of North Bend recently waived permitting and other fees for planning, which will come to about $10,000. The city of Snoqualmie has given equally, with trail development and other projects.

The interpretive center is just one facet of the land's development as a public site. Last summer, three bridges were built by volunteers over marshy areas, and a trail system is being planned on the land. The first phase of the trail, which is currently open to the public, is two miles of mowed grass. The city of Snoqualmie is using a state grant to complete the trail.

For now, the Meadowbrook trail is open for hiking, picnics, bicycle riding and wildlife viewing. It starts in the woods near the back of the Snoqualmie Middle School parking lot and heads east, skirting the edge of a meadow. Flags show the way. However, farm visitors are not allowed to light fires, carry firearms or operate motorized vehicles on the property.

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