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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
"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."
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.