I am not an environmentalist. I do not hug trees. I am not “green.” Why then am I ecstatic about the recent news about the city and The Trust for Public Land acquiring an option to purchase the Tollgate property?
The reason is simple. Tollgate is what separates our pastoral community from the sprawling megalopolis directly to the west of us. Tollgate affords us spectacular views, which are unmatched anywhere in the state. When people think of North Bend and Mount Si, they picture the views from the main meadow.
In short, Tollgate is the heart and soul of our rural community. I believe recognition should be given to all the individuals and groups that have brought us to this point and continue to struggle to ensure that this happens. First on the list, is our mayor, Joan Simpson. The honorable mayor has worked tirelessly to preserve the rural character of this community. She has bravely taken a stand and fought against development efforts. This stand that she has taken has been at times the path of most resistance.
There are those who feel that we would be better served by building million-square-foot office parks that would transform our community into Issaquah East. Mayor Simpson recognized the true value of the property is to preserve the open space. She has stuck out her political neck and risked being castigated for a cause in which she believes. For that I applaud her.
Recognition needs to be given to the Miller family for wisely recognizing the historical significance of this property and for working with the city to preserve it. It is not an understatement to say that they have facilitated the creation of a great legacy. It would be my hope that the city and the citizens dedicate a portion of the property to recognizing this effort.
Perhaps a portion of the property could be a park dedicated to the family and the contributions the family has made to life in the Valley. As trustees of their family legacy, the current generation of Millers could not have made a wiser choice than to preserve the property and its (and their) historical legacy.
Without the facilitation of The Trust for Public Lands, this option would not have been available. In particular, Kent Whitehead should be recognized. His skill in negotiating led to acceptable terms for all parties. The Millers will get a fair price, and it will not bankrupt the city or the citizens.
Additionally, Kent was able to secure significant funding from the county so as not to overburden the city in trying to acquire the property. Getting money from King County is about as difficult as getting blood from a stone. Kent is truly a steward of the environment and a valuable servant to it.
We cannot forget the citizens who have tirelessly fought to protect this property. The group Friends of Tollgate Farm has done a tremendous job educating the public about the property and the benefits of saving it for all of us. These individuals have tirelessly worked to get the word out. They have stood on street corners, made flyers, and spent many a night organizing themselves and fighting for a cause at the expense of their personal time.
I’ve spoken with some of the members of the group and can relate to them. They are just citizens of North Bend. Most are without any special knowledge of environmental issues. However, they have a passion to save this property for all of us.
There are many more people who deserve our thanks and appreciation. By no means is this list complete. Folks such as the City Council, local business owners, developers, the parks commissioner, the Planning Commission, the director of community services, Councilman Irons and various members of the citizenry are all to be commended.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten others. The point is that this is a community effort, and it is the entire community that is benefiting.
For someone to say they are against saving Tollgate, it is as if they are saying they are against saving North Bend. When I think about the reasons I moved to North Bend, I am reminded how special this place is. Mount Si and Rattlesnake Ridge are magical places. Every morning I look out my window and am continually amazed and awed. I pinch myself and think how lucky I am. This very brave decision to preserve this land allows all of us to continue to share this awesome resource. More importantly, it provides us all a lasting legacy.
So when I look into the eyes of my 4-month-old son, I know I will one day be able to tell him we did it so that we could pass on this gem to him. I do not think it is hyperbole to say that one day we will all owe a great debt to the decision makers of today. It makes me proud to be a North Bender and a newly converted environmentalist.