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


"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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