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Council OKs Middle Fork land purchase

SEATTLE — The Metro King County Council voted 11-0


Monday to approve the acquisition of 418 acres of land near the Middle Fork of


the Snoqualmie River, east of North Bend.


Two separate parcels are included in the acquisition, located near


Oxbow Reach and about one-half mile north of the Buddhist residence on


Middle Fork Road. The property encompasses 3.5 miles of river frontage and


abuts the Mount Si Natural Resource Conservation Area.


Filling in a "missing link", the purchase will complete


contiguous public ownership of land from the Middle Fork to the North Fork,


including Mount Si.


Although the property was recently appraised for more than $2


million, King County was able to buy both parcels for a total of


$300,000. Money for the acquisition came from the King County Waterway 2000


Program, which holds bonds to pay for open-space purchases in the county.


The deal was brokered by the Mountains to Sound Greenway


Trust, a non-profit organization that has led negotiations to secure more


than 50,000 acres along the I-90 corridor to be put into public ownership.


The group facilitates purchases of sensitive, privately held land by


city, county, state and federal entities for preservation and public recreation.


"The Middle Fork area is a huge resource," Greenway Trust


Executive Director Nancy Keith said. "A lot


of work has been done to acquire small pockets of private `inholdings' to


preserve the wildlife habitat and recreational viability in the area."


A task force convened by the Greenway Trust had identified


the property as significant and strategically important to the regional


watershed management plan. The organization is negotiating for the


purchase of several smaller adjacent parcels and land close to the Middle Fork


acquisition.


"This is a spectacular addition to


preservation efforts in the Middle Fork, especially


around Mount Si. It was a bargain-basement price


and at a fraction of market cost to taxpayers; it's


a great deal."


Larry Phillips


King County Council


Phillips added that while some other private property owners


along the Middle Fork are willing to sell, the asking price is several times


market value and therefore out of reach at this time.


The Interstate 90-corridor acquisitions are negotiated as land


swaps, outright purchases or a combination of both to ensure that the property


will not be developed and will remain open to the public.


Although less acreage is involved than that of many Greenway


purchases, both Greenway Trust and King County officials say the


418-acre Middle Fork addition met an important goal by connecting the land


between the river and Mount Si Road and preserving essential watershed land.

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