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Irons wants to cut $4 million from Three Forks plan
SEATTLE _ King County Councilman David Irons has proposed
an amendment that limits development in the controversial Three Forks
Natural Area and shaves more than $4 million from the project's price tag.
Council members were scheduled to vote on the master plan on April
24, but Irons' amendment halted the decision.
Three Forks is a 418-acre county-owned lot located between
North Bend and Snoqualmie, where the Snoqualmie River's three forks
meet. The original plan aimed at creating a public-use park and wildlife
preserve at a cost of $5.2 million.
The project has been in the planning stages since 1993 and a
council vote has been postponed several times, with the latest delay caused by
the amendment. Irons said he hopes other council members will decide to
accept the amendment in place of the original version. He added that he
crafted it in response to community concern over the project's cost and
potential impact on the environment.
At least 80 Valley residents and members of the Three Forks
Natural Area Preservation Committee addressed their concerns to Irons at
a meeting held last month at QFC in North Bend. Residents who
attended the forum questioned how $5.2 million of improvements would keep
the area "natural."
"I saw people that were passionate about the quality of wildlife
and the environment," Irons said.
"That's why I took on this battle. It was the right battle to fight, to protect the
environment and protect wildlife."
Art Skolnik, who owns property across the street from the
proposed park, said he was pleased that Irons initiated an amendment that
reflected the concerns of the residents.
"This proposal put forth by David Irons Jr. goes a long way toward what we
have been saying, and achieves the goal that we've wanted, which is preserving
the habitat as first priority," Skolnik said.
Irons agreed with the residents and questioned how the project grew
from a $284,000 local park to a $5 million regional park that would attract
more visitors, which in turn, could potentially harm the environment.
"My vision and the vision of the people who voted on this park was
that it would be a small local park. Who said it had to be a big regional
park?" he explained, adding that many council members still want to approve
the original project instead of the amended version.
Irons said it makes no sense for the project to go forward without
the amendment, which will replace a portion of the master plan with a
smaller list of improvements. The amendment's projects will
total $978,684 _ which saves approximately $4 million.
The new project list includes:
Parking lots, seasonal restrooms and landscaping at the old North
Fork School and Vista Point sites;
Install interpretation signs on North Fork Loop trail;
Create a pedestrian and equestrian trail on Reinig Road;
Re-vegetate the most highly-damaged areas and wildlife
corridor in hay production area; and
Install boundary emblems and gateway signs in the park.
County Councilman Larry Phillips said he supports Irons' efforts to
cut the project's budget, but wants residents to remember that voters
approved this project in 1989. The King County open space bond listed
the Three Forks Natural Area as one of many parks that taxpayer
money would develop for public use.
Phillips, who is chair of the county's Natural Resources, Parks
and Open Space Committee, said that it would be deceitful to taxpayers if
the plans for the natural area were altered dramatically.
"Voters and taxpayers voted on Three Forks Natural Area because
they knew it would be a natural preserve but also because they would be
able to go there," he said. "So I want
to make sure that the master plan is consistent with what we told the
voters they were getting with the bond."
Phillips is currently working on a counter-amendment that would
be similar to Irons' proposal, he said. Phillips' version will cut the
original $5.2 budget in half, but will still include most of the priority projects
the voters approved. He added that if taxpayers are paying for a public
park, then it needs to have restrooms and safe parking areas.
"We will honor the will of the people and preserve this natural
area, but allow the public to know where that area is. And when they get
there, they will have a safe and healthful visit," he said.
In response to residents' allegations of this project harming
wildlife or habitat, Phillips said his amendment would require environmental
studies to be done if any additional phases are developed.
"No one in King County is more concerned about the preservation
of wildlife and habitat than I am. But if you live in the county, you should
be able to visit this natural area," he said.
"I am chair of the natural resources committee for a reason,"
The King County Council is scheduled to discuss the issue on
May 8. Irons said that residents who want to comment on the original plan or
the amendment should call council members at (206) 296-1000 or e-mail
them at www.metrokc.gov/mkcc.