Opinion

County council protects our open spaces

P>Residents of King County are justifiably proud of the reputation as


responsible stewards of the environment. A perfect example of this


Northwest philosophy is demonstrated in the evolution of King County's


Master Plan for the Three Forks Natural Area in the Snoqualmie Valley.


This project began more than a decade ago with the lofty goal of


preserving a natural area of stunning beauty and a rich wildlife habitat


at the confluence of the Snoqualmie River's three forks. Over time,


this simple proposal ballooned into an ambitious development project.


The cost grew proportionally, from the original estimate of $284,000 in


improvements to a staggering $5.2 million.


As the Master Plan crystallized, it became clear the project was


overreaching the intended scope of the work _ by a long shot. Residents


of the area, those most familiar with this environmental treasure, objected to


the increase in development. Revisions were suggested and


incorporated: more focus on restoring vegetation


in riparian zones, less paving and land-clearing for parking spaces and


fewer restrooms. This is, after all, a


"natural area" rather than a "park," a


living room for deer and elk and bobcats and squirrels, where humans are just


invited guests.


Eventually, the King County council did something it has been


criticized for not doing in the past _ we


listened. We listened to the neighbors and to the supporters of the Master Plan.


We listened to hikers, bird-watchers, nature lovers, environmentalists,


outdoor recreation enthusiasts and many others. Concerns about the Master


Plan went far beyond just "not-in-my-back-yard" protectionism. The


broad-based testimony indicated the depth of reflection about how we humans in


the Northwest interact with our environment. Overwhelmingly, they told


us that too much development would spoil this natural gem forever.


The scaled-down Master Plan approved by the council in May


represents the evolution of the project's scope following participation by


all the interested parties, from county staff to environmental activists. It


still leaves the door open to future improvements, if they are deemed


beneficial and not detrimental to the wildlife habitat. The $978,000 cost


saves county taxpayers $4.4 million, while still delivering the public


accessibility that was promised.


The public process on Three Forks was one of the most open and


scrutinized in recent memory, from public meetings in North Bend to


lengthy public testimony and debate before the council. That's exactly the way


it should be for such a vital decision on the use of our open spaces and parks.


King County Councilmembers David Irons and Maggi Fimia

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