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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
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