Opinion

Kudos to King County Council

Many people believe elected officials only listen to their

constituents during election time. What chance does the individual voter have to

bring about change within the political system, particularly it seems, when

the battle matches development against the environment? It seems too

often that our elected officials lose sight of the big picture.

Kudos to members of the King County Council for restoring our

faith in the political process. The council voted to significantly scale back on

a master plan that took 10 years to develop after listening to public

opinion and re-evaluating the scope of the project.

The Three Forks Natural Area in Snoqualmie serves as a wildlife

refuge to elk, deer, black bear and cougar, to name only a few, as well

as numerous "species of concern." The area has been accessible to and

enjoyed by people for decades in its natural state. In 1989, King County

voters passed a bond permitting the county to purchase this 350-acre parcel

and to spend $284,000 to develop the area, stipulating the highest priority

should be the protection of the natural habitat and wildlife.

However, what began as someone's idea of adding little

more than one parking lot, a few picnic tables and a public restroom,

ballooned over the next 10 years into a $5.2 million master plan, which

called for, among other things, the fencing off of large portions of the area

which now serve as a wildlife corridor, the cutting down of trees and native

plants to add six new parking lots (in an area known for its flooding), viewing

platforms, numerous trails of undetermined surface and countless

other "improvements," all with a high

price tag to the taxpayer and the environment.

The councilmembers were presented with overwhelming

evidence from knowledgeable sources that increased human presence of the

magnitude suggested by the master plan would do great damage to the

wildlife and the existing ecological balance and would change the character of

the natural area forever. In spite of that information, along with the clear

message from residents throughout King County to "leave it alone, it is a

gem in King County that should not be tampered with," plus the bond that

called for only passive recreation, many councilmembers were still poised

to pass the master plan as written. A few members even called $5.2 million

a "light touch."

Lucky for King County, newly elected Councilman David W.

Irons took to heart all he was hearing from the city of Snoqualmie and others

in opposition and went back to the drawing board. He brought before the

council a revised plan that was more in line with the original bond and that

was both more fiscally and environmentally responsible. The amendment

he proposed did pass through the council by a close seven to six vote,

much to the credit of councilmembers such as Maggie Fimia, who strongly

got behind the amendment. With the passage of this amendment, King

County residents were blessed with a gem in the King County Park System

unlike any other and with a savings to the taxpayer of more than $4.2

million. Thank you King County Council and Councilman Irons for showing

the people of King County that the political process can work.

Wenda Miller-Cassman

Chair of the Three Forks Natural Area

Preservation Committee

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