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County plans Three Forks Natural Area
SNOQUALMIE_If the King County Department of Parks and
Recreation has its way, the Three Forks area on the northeast fringe
of Snoqualmie will receive the benefits of over $5 million dollars in
planning and improvements.
According to Connie Zimmerman, project manager for the county's
Department of Construction and Facility Management, the goal is to
enhance Three Forks while providing safety features and improved services
for visitors. The plan would achieve this through trails for pedestrians,
bicycle and equestrian users, along with viewpoints and other enhancements.
A group of Valley residents, however, are not happy with the
proposal and question the intent of the project, its impact on wildlife in the
vicinity and, above all, the amount of funding. They maintain you can't take a
"natural area" and improve it
Zimmerman made her presentation on the Three Forks area at a
meeting of the Snoqualmie Parks Board on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Members of
the city's Planning Commission and Shoreline Hearings Board also
attended at the invitation of Snoqualmie Mayor R. "Fuzzy"
Fletcher. Zimmerman stated the project _ which started about six years ago _
features a main pedestrian and equestrian trail alongside Reinig Road. The
Master plan also calls for the retention of a 300-foot wildlife corridor along
the south side of the property, while providing limited water access points
and overlooks throughout the area. It also specifies six parking areas ranging
in size from five to 20 slots each.
"We looked at how people use the area now," she commented. "We
see this is an important objective, to provide safety and services such as
parking areas, viewpoints to observe the marsh areas, and also provide
access to the confluence of the North and Middle Forks."
Speaking from the floor, Paul Carkeek _ who serves as a
consultant to the Three Forks Natural Recreation Area Preservation Committee,
the leading group in opposition to the plan _ keyed on the appropriateness of
the budget items specified for the area.
"Why are we spending $5 million if this is only a `minimal touch?'"
he queried. "In what way does spending that money benefit the area?
"My feeling is that the natural area requires time, and throwing $5
million at it isn't going to make it any better. I'm just startled by the cost
and the push."
In a letter to the county Utilities and Natural Resources
Committee, Mayor Fletcher also raised some concerns, primarily over who will
assume management responsibility for the completed natural area. City staff
indicated Snoqualmie will formally respond to the county on the
proposal in early December and will include its own recommendations for the project.
For Carkeek and preservation committee chair Wenda
Miller-Cassman, the question remains the impact on wildlife and what they
perceive as an unwise expenditure of public funds.
"They call this a `light touch,' but the net effect will be deleterious
to wildlife," Carkeek commented before the meeting. "The problem I can
see is you've got some pretty sensitive wildlife in there."
"We feel if they should be spending money on anything, it should
be for wildlife stewardship," Miller-Cassman said, adding, "The
problem here is this: Someone has spent a lot of time and energy developing
this master plan, and their jobs are hanging on it.
"When people come in, nature leaves. I know we have
community support, but it'd be nice if the community would speak up, and let
King County know we want this area left alone."
King County staffer and current North Bend councilman Mark
Sollitto was one of the early proponents of the Three Forks area. He remains a
"In 1985 I went over to the parks system as a capital improvement
coordinator, the guy who was responsible for making recommendations
on what land to buy and what parks to fix," he commented Monday. "I
read of the potential values of the site as being the confluence of the single
biggest river system in the county, and it interested me.
"I was really impressed with the unique view, its riparian character,
and its unique location between three large groups of open areas. It appeared
to me it would be important for the public, in an appropriate way, to
access the area and learn of its important character, while remaining respectful."
Sollitto disagrees with comments that the entire project has been
studied and funded on something of a "stealth" basis, without adequate
"Early on we had a number of meetings at Snoqualmie
Middle School, where we laid out a number of ideas," he responded. "I thought
we achieved a consensus. I'm not sure some of the opponents to the plan
lived in the area at that time."
According to Bud Parker, Zimmerman's supervisor, the
goal now is to confirm funding for the next phase of the project and get
King County Council approval.
"We're hoping to get it there (to council) this week or the
following week," he stated Monday.
"Unless something happens, I expect we'll get
"The basic thing is this: We're not doing much. It's a beautiful,
natural site, and we intend to keep it that way."
Copies of the Three Forks Natural Area Master Plan are available at
King County library branches. For more information on the project,
contact Parker at (206) 296-4151, or Lynn Lewicki at (206) 296-0648.
For information on the Three Forks Natural Area Preservation
Committee, call Miller-Cassman at (425) 831-1747. She advises
contributions towards the committee's activities
may be left at Isadora's, on Railroad Avenue in Snoqualmie.