Bothell gets a forest for Christmas
Bothell's "last great forest" — 35 acres in the North Creek Watershed — is saved from development, thanks to the efforts of citizens groups and the city.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Only a mile from City Hall, and within Bothell city limits, is a 64-acre habitat of fox, beaver, deer and salmon, Pileated Woodpeckers and Band-tailed Pigeons. There's a canopy of damp cedar, and a carpet of maple leaves. Even though the property is sandwiched between a housing development and Interstate 405, the sound of traffic is muted by moss-sweatered trees.
After 10 years of work, the nonprofits Friends of North Creek Forest and Help Our Woods have saved 35 of those acres of forest from development.
Wednesday as volunteers for Friends of North Creek Forest walked the edges of the forested site, real-estate agent Bryan Zemp arrived dressed in a Santa hat. He pulled down the "sale pending" sign and put up one that said "sold."
The Friends group found grants enabling Bothell to buy the property from the Chief Sealth Council of the Boy Scouts of America for $450,000, thereby saving a portion of what's referred to as "Bothell's last great forest" from development. The forest, like the city of Bothell, exists in both King and Snohomish counties.
Jim Freese, interim director of the North Creek group, calls the land purchase "a big Christmas gift" for the citizens of Bothell.
The gift, however, may be for the larger community as well. Purchasing the land secures a nearly unbroken wildlife corridor from Juanita Bay in Kenmore to North Creek Forest, Freese said. And it protects a portion of the 33-square-mile North Creek Watershed at a time when already 49 percent of it is covered with impervious surfaces such as parking lots, buildings and roads.
With 30 percent population growth projected over the next 18 years, the areas of undeveloped land will decrease even more, he said.
"That's what makes the forest so critical. It acts as a natural filter by keeping the water cool and clean so salmon can spawn."
The city worked with the volunteers for years to make the purchase a reality, Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb said.
"The North Creek Forest is a conservation legacy that Bothell is securing for generations to come," he said.
"At first the effort was about stopping development," Freese said. The two groups of volunteers joined forces to work on the same goal. That goal changed over time, however, and eventually became to purchase the land and preserve it as open space.
The area, to be a minimally developed park, will be open to the public. The only changes will be the addition of trails, Freese said.
The 35 acres were donated to the Chief Sealth Council of Boy Scouts of America in the late 1970s, said Sharon Moulds, chief executive officer. The donor wanted the council to develop the acreage into retail space but, "That's not what we're in business for," she said.
"In the 1990s we got unsolicited offers from developers, and it actively went on the market in 1999," she said.
At one time, the property was appraised at $1 million, she said. There were two potential buyers but neither worked out. When Friends of North Creek Forest made an offer of $450,000, which would keep the land undeveloped, it seemed like a perfect solution, Moulds said.
"We are just thrilled it has worked out the way it has. Scouts will be able to go in there and help with service projects. We couldn't ask for anything better," she said.
Friends of North Creek Forest is continuing to negotiate with the owners of the rest of the wooded property in the area and seeking grants to purchase that land as well, Freese said.
The 35 acres were purchased by the city with King County and Snohomish County Conservation Futures grants, the King County Proposition 2 park levy fund, and a Washington State Department of Commerce grant.
The forest is a mile-long triangle extending from Canyon Park Junior High on the north to North Creek wetlands by the University of Washington-Bothell campus to the south. It's a mature coniferous forest with multiple wetlands and streams and is a habitat for a variety of wildlife.
"It's mature second growth, naturally regenerated," said Woody Wheeler, project consultant for the Friends of North Creek Forest. "If I were Paul Allen I'd look for forests like these and buy them (for protection). These are really valuable."
And, he said, the new park adds to the economic development of the city. With nearby trails and a well-planned city, more people will want to live and work in Bothell.
"I'm so excited this is happening," added Freese. "I wanted to put a big bow on that sign that says, 'Merry Christmas, Bothell!' "
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or email@example.com. On Twitter @BartleyNews.
Information in this article, originally published Dec. 15, 2011, was corrected Dec. 16, 2011. A previous version of this story left out the first name of Woody Wheeler, project consultant for the Friends of North Creek Forest.
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