Many people believe elected officials only listen to their
constituents during election time. What chance does the individual voter have to
bring about change within the political system, particularly it seems, when
the battle matches development against the environment? It seems too
often that our elected officials lose sight of the big picture.
Kudos to members of the King County Council for restoring our
faith in the political process. The council voted to significantly scale back on
a master plan that took 10 years to develop after listening to public
opinion and re-evaluating the scope of the project.
The Three Forks Natural Area in Snoqualmie serves as a wildlife
refuge to elk, deer, black bear and cougar, to name only a few, as well
as numerous “species of concern.” The area has been accessible to and
enjoyed by people for decades in its natural state. In 1989, King County
voters passed a bond permitting the county to purchase this 350-acre parcel
and to spend $284,000 to develop the area, stipulating the highest priority
should be the protection of the natural habitat and wildlife.
However, what began as someone’s idea of adding little
more than one parking lot, a few picnic tables and a public restroom,
ballooned over the next 10 years into a $5.2 million master plan, which
called for, among other things, the fencing off of large portions of the area
which now serve as a wildlife corridor, the cutting down of trees and native
plants to add six new parking lots (in an area known for its flooding), viewing
platforms, numerous trails of undetermined surface and countless
other “improvements,” all with a high
price tag to the taxpayer and the environment.
The councilmembers were presented with overwhelming
evidence from knowledgeable sources that increased human presence of the
magnitude suggested by the master plan would do great damage to the
wildlife and the existing ecological balance and would change the character of
the natural area forever. In spite of that information, along with the clear
message from residents throughout King County to “leave it alone, it is a
gem in King County that should not be tampered with,” plus the bond that
called for only passive recreation, many councilmembers were still poised
to pass the master plan as written. A few members even called $5.2 million
a “light touch.”
Lucky for King County, newly elected Councilman David W.
Irons took to heart all he was hearing from the city of Snoqualmie and others
in opposition and went back to the drawing board. He brought before the
council a revised plan that was more in line with the original bond and that
was both more fiscally and environmentally responsible. The amendment
he proposed did pass through the council by a close seven to six vote,
much to the credit of councilmembers such as Maggie Fimia, who strongly
got behind the amendment. With the passage of this amendment, King
County residents were blessed with a gem in the King County Park System
unlike any other and with a savings to the taxpayer of more than $4.2
million. Thank you King County Council and Councilman Irons for showing
the people of King County that the political process can work.
Chair of the Three Forks Natural Area