Opinion

NIMBYism takes from entire county

A couple of facts should be made clear regarding last minute

changes to the Three Forks Natural Area Master Plan which the King County

Council narrowly passed over my objections.

First, the plan as originally drafted impacted less than

five acres of the 418-arce Three Forks Natural

Area. The plan called for a few restrooms, small parking areas, revegetation,

and some hiking trail improvements. The plan never envisioned a

high-use park like Marymoor Park. Suggestions to

as much are disingenuous and patently false. Secondly, the

original plan was drafted over five years through a

responsible open process in accord with state law and

county policy. Finally, the proposed plan called for a biological assessment

of the park area, as requested by local citizenry.

By contrast, the plan that emerged was drafted behind closed doors,

on behalf of narrow special interests, and without public input.

Additionally, the plan no longer calls for a

biological assessment of the park, placing the area at risk of environmental damage.

But beyond ignoring the public planning process, are the larger

issues of making public land truly public, and upholding the vote of the

people. At what point should residents of Bellevue, Issaquah, Preston, be

allowed to use Three Forks, along with residents living nearby the park?

In 1989, King County voters passed a bond measure allowing

the purchase of the Three Forks Natural Area. Every single King County

resident currently pays for the park through property taxes. The

area, however, has no parking, no marked entrances, no marked main

trailhead, and no restrooms, making it difficult for those not from the immediate

area to find, see, and use the area. Scaling back park improvements will

continue to make it difficult for county taxpayers to use the park, as

promised to them as voters.

That may be fine for park neighbors who view Three Forks as

their private nature preserve paid for at public expense. Unfortunately,

capitulating to NIMBYism, the Not-In-My-Backyard syndrome, takes from

everyone. Suppose Redmond residents placed restrictions on

using Marymoor Park. Suppose Queen Anne residents placed restrictions on

using the Seattle Center. Taxpayers would rightly question why they made

investments in such land purchases.

The impact of NIMBYism is not an abstract public policy

exercise. County residents have also made substantial investments in park

projects on Maury Island, and along East Lake Sammamish. The public cannot

utilize either area because of vocal, local opposition. While reasonable

accommodations can and should be made to resolve specific issues

affecting local citizenry, so-called "outsiders" should not be dissuaded from

visiting these areas. As county taxpayers, they have a right to see a return

on their investment.

Allowing NIMBYism to pass as public policy simply allows a

privileged few to benefit at the expense of many. Such a policy is

irresponsible and ultimately intolerable. King County taxpayers have paid for

these parks. They should have reasonable access to them.

Larry Phillips chairs the Metropolitan King County

Council's Natural Resources Committee.

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