Opinion

Look for still more Middle Fork improvements

It was great to see your recent editorial support ("Community connections") for more recreational development in the Middle Fork Valley. A number of people, organizations and agencies have been doggedly working toward the same goal for the past 15 years. From the '70s onward, this magnificent, 100,000-acre backcountry of forests, wild river and dramatic mountains had become a haven for outlaw activities and that made it unsafe for the rest of us who wanted to hike the trails, kayak or fish the river and enjoy the great outdoors.

The original 1993 plan for the Mountains to Sound Greenway offered this vision for the future of the Middle Fork Valley: "Improve opportunities, for hiking, biking, camping and other outdoor recreation. Develop a habitat management and enhancement plan. Maintain the valley as a wildlife corridor from I-90 into the Mount Si Natural Resource Conservation Area and Alpine Lakes Wilderness." For the Edgewick area, the plan says: "Provide travelers' services and outfitting for recreation access for the Middle Fork Valley and Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area."

In the mid-1990s, Seattleite Mark Boyar enlisted partners, wrote grants and funded a Middle Fork concept planning process where land owners and people from many interests, (including North Bend and Snoqualmie business and elected leaders), worked out the details for "taking back the valley."

Since then, King County has invested greatly in protecting the Middle Fork riparian habitat, which means clean water downstream for all of us. The state Department of Natural Resources has almost annually found funds to expand the Mount Si Natural Resource Conservation Area. The forest service has assisted all groups in making improvements and this past spring, helped design and build a very attractive campground and picnic area 20 miles up into the Valley.

The grandeur of the Middle Fork Valley has inspired people like Wade Holden to found Friends of the Trail, bringing volunteers out to haul away the trash left by thoughtless people. The Greenway Trust brings young volunteers into the valley most summers to extend and maintain trails, restore riverbanks damaged by vehicles and garbage dumping and erase abandoned logging roads. Washington Trails Association and EarthCorps also marshal volunteers in the slow steady work to make the Middle Fork a natural wonderland where people can experience the big, Northwest outdoors without fear and with trails and camping areas that let them co-exist with a healthy habitat.

Hiking and biking trails in the North Bend area are already attracting many thousands of users a year. Every year, over 100,000 hikers climb Mount Si. The Greenway Trust is hoping to soon add another spectacular trail up Mailbox Peak in the Middle Fork. New trails will help disperse the impact of all those hiking boots.

With population and recreation growing all the time, stewards of the Middle Fork have listed other improvements that will help balance human use with the health of the river and forest habitats. The forest service and WSDOT are planning to upgrade the gravel road to improve safety. Well-planned picnic sites along the river would be great for people while protecting fragile habitat. The old CCC road will someday be a great 12-mile trail for bikers, equestrians and walkers and new loop trails would appeal to more families and other hikers.

As population grows, people in the cities will want to get out and enjoy the mountain landscape for which our region is famous. North Bend is perfectly located to gear them up and help them get there.

Nancy Keith

Mountains to Sound

Greenway Trust

Seattle

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