When the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activities and Community Center Association was embarking on its years-long journey to build a youth facility, Board President Joel Yoker received a prescient bit of advise from one of their volunteers: if you start it, the community will come.
Standing outside the nearly completed center, those words of wisdom rang true for Yoker.
The new youth activity center has been a long time coming. After a former youth center was built in the 1950s by the nonprofit, a broken pipe and significant water damage shuttered the facility in 2008.
Since then, a settlement between the city of North Bend and the nonprofit allowed them to purchase a 20-acre property in North Bend with the goal of building a year-round center for youth groups to use.
Despite construction setbacks due to the pandemic, the new 2,500-square-foot building is set to open soon, although an official date has yet to be announced. By all accounts, the new youth activity center has been a labor of love with community volunteers, businesses and organizations donating material and 10,000 hours of labor time. It comes complete with three, single-occupancy bathrooms, a large meeting room and an industrial kitchen that can be used as a community kitchen during a natural disaster or other emergency.
It’s allowed the nonprofit to build the community center entirely debt free, said Joe Hannan, a Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activities and Community Center Association board member. Significant chunks of funding for the center came from Washington state, Snoqualmie Tribe and King County. Snoqualmie Tribe also assisted in searching the property for Native American artifacts before construction began.
The nonprofit is also run and staffed entirely by volunteers.
“We’ve had to learn, it’s been a lot of research, a lot of YouTube and a lot of leaning on local experts,” Yoker said.
Yoker said the mission of the nonprofit is to provide space and facilities for youth organizations, free of charge. This charter also means that no for-profit activities will be allowed at the center. The land and center are expected to fulfill all the needs of youth nonprofits, Yoker said. These include being centrally located, having open space, meeting space and bathrooms, and a place to store and repair gear.
As the main building nears completion, the nonprofit is looking to begin the second phase of construction. This will include a 40-by-80-foot workshop and storage building on the eastern edge of the property, said Byron Moor, board member and construction manager. The vision for this new building is to provide what amounts to a community garage for youth nonprofits.
The state Legislature approved $360,000 in funding to complete the second phase of the youth center, which nearly covers the complete cost.
That’s not all that gets the board members excited. A short walk away, across a wooden footbridge that was built out by three different community projects, is the back 15 acres. Hannan said they put a conservation easement on the back 15 acres, meaning it can never be developed.
On the back of the property lies a sweeping meadow, ringed by thick stands of trees. It’s the perfect place for camping trips or other outdoor activities, while also being near bathrooms and other necessities, the board members said. Decades ago, the property was all farmland, which was surrendered largely to blackberry bushes that had to be cleared out, again by volunteers. Soon the property will provide a place for local youth to gather, camp and build memories.
“When you bring the community together, they tend to do a lot of things,” he said.