$500,000 pledged to Heybrook Ridge
He briefly was Seattle's newest millionaire. Now he's the patron saint of Heybrook Ridge. A longtime fan of all things Index — its...
Times Snohomish County Bureau
Friends of Heybrook Ridge
Donations to Friends of Heybrook Ridge may be made at:
He briefly was Seattle's newest millionaire.
Now he's the patron saint of Heybrook Ridge.
A longtime fan of all things Index — its community, its stunning Cascades setting, its recreational and educational potential — has anonymously donated $500,000 in matching funds to help save a 95-acre forest that rises along the town's southern edge.
Friends of Heybrook Ridge last spring won a reprieve from WB Foresters of Stanwood, which gave the nonprofit until June to raise $1.3 million to purchase the property.
The 100-year-old forest otherwise would be logged, transforming the town's visual backdrop and ruining the nonprofit group's dream of creating a public park with interpretive trails and school partnerships.
About a month ago, the forest's future looked grim. With the deadline looming, only $36,000 had been raised.
Then a Friends supporter inherited a small fortune and made his surprising donation. If the greater community responds to his challenge, his $500,000 could double to $1 million.
"I don't want a lot of money. I'm happy with my life right now," said the Seattle retiree. "I'm not worried about my children; they know how to take care of themselves. And my wife says she's cool with this."
The Friends were ecstatic.
"It's a great boost of energy, more than money. And hope," said Nicholas Dankers, 29, a Friends board member who grew up hiking and rock climbing around Index.
His parents, Hans and Martha Dankers of Monroe, immediately responded to the challenge with a $10,000 donation, he said. With the donor's match, that equates to $20,000.
The Cascade Land Conservancy, which would broker the land purchase, also is exploring funding possibilities. The challenge donation could prove pivotal, said Joe Sambataro, the conservancy's project manager. Some federal, state and private grants require matching funds, he said, so the anonymous donation qualifies Heybrook for new pots of money.
"I think the picture definitely changes with this," Sambataro said.
Index is a hamlet in eastern Snohomish County, surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Cascades and the granite Town Wall, which is internationally known among rock-climbers.
Its 155 residents live mostly in a central core — 10 blocks long and two blocks wide — of homes that generally are oriented toward the ridge, which rises above the North Fork of the Skykomish River.
While many Friends activists live in the area, they are adamant that the ridge's impacts reach far beyond the town's residents.
The forest regrew naturally, after an early logging of the ridge's old-growth timber, so it's considered an "outdoor classroom" for students of all ages.
A University of Washington, Bothell professor, Dave Stokes, has taken students onto the ridge to study its ecology. Supporters point to a new U.S. Forest Service program, More Kids in the Woods, which could be a natural fit.
And as the economy of the Highway 2 corridor shifts toward recreational tourism, the importance of the town's natural beauty is growing. The town's historic old tavern has been renovated into the Outdoor Adventure Center, offering courses and rentals for kayaking, rafting, biking and hiking.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, continue working in Congress to create the Wild Sky Wilderness Area. The Index-Galena Road would be a key access point, placing Heybrook Ridge at the wilderness area's gateway.
It's "a vision thing," said 30-year resident Louise Lindgren, Snohomish County's retired historic-preservation planner.
"It's the dreamers who get things done," she said. "The people who are practical, they get through their lives and do absolutely nothing that will give a legacy for society. We are trying to do something that will last, which we can give to the generations after us."
The anonymous donor considers his gift a commitment to "the ambience of the landscape of that great area," which he likens to Yosemite — without the crowds.
"The idea of having a million dollars was so shocking that I had to figure out something good to do with it," he said. "And the 'something good' was right there, staring me in the face. Maybe somebody else will feel the same way about it when they read this story."
Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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