A partnership led by the City of Issaquah, along with The Trust for Public Land and King County, permanently protected forestland that had been slated for development but will instead serve as a gateway to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
Executive Constantine joins partners to celebrate the permanent protection of Issaquah forestland that will serve as a new gateway to King County’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
Executive Dow Constantine today congratulated the City of Issaquah and their partners, The Trust for Public Land, for protecting 46 acres of forestland that will serve as a scenic gateway to King County’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
The property – which was slated for a 57-home hillside subdivision – will instead connect the City of Issaquah’s Harvey Manning Park to a green necklace of other city parks, trails and open spaces, the master-planned Talus community, and a major transit center.
“Thanks to bold action by our partners, forestland that was destined to become a subdivision is now a permanently protected gateway to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park,” said Executive Constantine. “This is the model for successful land conservation: Cities, nonprofits, and community organizations joining forces with King County serving as the catalyst. We need to replicate this success throughout the region to protect the last remaining, most vital greenspaces before they are lost forever.”
Commonly called Bergsma, the land located on the northeast corner of Cougar Mountain between Newport Way Northwest and Talus had long been proposed for residential development. The forestland is home to diverse wildlife, old-growth trees, and waterways that feed salmon-bearing streams.
“No one agency or person could have done this alone,” said Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly. “Thanks to strong partnerships; an engaged community; and our courageous and forward-thinking City Councilmembers, this historic purchase will preserve an important connection between our urban valley floor and the Issaquah Alps.
The acquisition helps accomplish two strategic projects for Issaquah – hillside acquisitions and a trail from Talus to Tibbetts Valley Park – outlined in the city’s 2018 Parks Strategic Plan, which was shaped by significant public input.
Executive Constantine’s proposal approved by the King County Council accelerates the funding available to cities and their partners before the open space is developed or priced out of range. It is part of the Land Conservation Initiative that Executive Constantine announced last year to protect 65,000 acres of the last remaining, most vital urban greenspace, forestland, and trail corridors within a single generation.
Starting in December 2017, the City of Issaquah partnered with The Trust for Public Land to explore options to protect the forestland. Ultimately, Issaquah purchased the eastern-most 33.5 acres for $10.6 million. Earlier this year, King County awarded Issaquah $5.3 million in Conservation Future Funds toward the acquisition. That award, along with other grants applied for next year, is estimated to reduce Issaquah’s ultimate cost to $3.8 million. To decrease the city’s upfront costs, The Trust for Public Land provided $3 million to Issaquah on an interest-free basis until Dec. 31, 2019.
“This newly protected land will make Washington’s great outdoors more accessible and easier to reach for folks across our state,” said David Patton, Northwest Area Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We’re proud to have played a part in making this a reality and are thankful to the exceptional work of our partners.”
King County purchased the western-most 12.5 acres, which adjoins the existing county-owned Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, for $355,000.
Several other partners supported the effort to protect the forestland, including Save Cougar Mountain, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Issaquah Alps Trails Club, and Washington Trails Association.
Benefits beyond the protected forestland
The benefits of protecting the forestland extend beyond the newly acquired 46 acres.
The forest cover will continue to cool the streams that feed into Lake Sammamish where King County and partners are taking emergency and long-range actions to ensure the survival of the native kokanee salmon after a sudden, alarming decline in the number of returning spawners.
The forest will also continue to absorb and store the carbon that fuels climate change, building on the progress King County has made with its first-of-its-kind Forest Carbon Program.