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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.