Final acquisition set for Squak Mountain forest, with King County-The Trust for Public Land accord

Public celebration May 10 of 226-acre forest acquired for recreation, habitat

A public celebration is set to commemorate preservation of 226 acres of high-quality forestland in the IssaquahSquak_Mountain_timber Alps – the result of a partnership between King County and The Trust for Public Land. This acquisition adds to King County’s Cougar-Squak Corridor parkland.

“Our partnership to protect Squak Mountain’s irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat is cause for celebration,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I want to thank The Trust for Public Land and the people of King County on behalf of generations who will enjoy hiking, viewing wildlife, and other recreation in this forest.”

“Our mission is saving land for people, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here,” said Paul Kundtz, State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We’re very proud to have helped add Squak Mountain forest to King County’s publicly owned lands.”

“Preserving Squak Mountain answers the public call to save the forest from clear cutting and protects this cherished habitat and recreational area adjacent to prized County and State parks,” said King County Council Chair Larry Phillips. “I thank The Trust for Public Land for partnering with us to preserve this property.”

“This is a great victory for the residents around Squak Mountain that brought this important issue to our attention,” said King County Council member Reagan Dunn, whose district includes Squak Mountain. “Thanks to the advocacy of organizations such as “Save Squak” and the Issaquah Alps Trail Club we are saving valuable habitat while increasing recreational opportunities for King County residents.

A public celebration of the Squak Mountain forest acquisition is scheduled for May 10, when partnership leaders and environmental supporters will make brief remarks and invite everyone to take any of several short guided hikes through the forest.

This forestland is closed to the public until 2015, so the May 10 event will be an early opportunity for the public to see the property. King County Parks must prepare the site for public use before full access can be allowed, including property clean-up, removing infrastructure, establishing trail routes, and ensuring property is safe and ready for public use.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the 226–acre property in six parcels from the previous landowner. King County recently purchased about half of the total acreage from The Trust for Public Land using King County Parks Levy regional open space funds, Conservation Futures funds, and Real Estate Excise Taxes.

The Trust for Public Land will retain ownership of the remaining acreage until King County raises the additional funds to complete the purchase, when it will be added to the County’s Cougar-Squak Corridor.

Parks will open the property for hiking-only use in 2015. Parks anticipates having a public planning process in 2015 to help determine future uses for the site.

The May 10 public celebration event starts at 10 a.m. and includes options for hikes of varying lengths through the property. Access to the celebration location is at 10610 Renton-Issaquah Road SE (State Route 900) (Click here for map).

There has been significant interest in the public to see this land, trail system, and natural resources conserved. The grassroots efforts were led by the organization “Save Squak” which helped focus community energy in support of this acquisition.

“We could not have wished for or imagined a better cooperative effort between citizen groups, all levels and departments within King County and The Trust for Public Land,” said David Kappler of the Issaquah Alps Trail Club, and a primary organizer of the Save Squak citizens group.

King County has been interested in maintaining the land’s recreational opportunities and preserving its rich forest habitat which supports a variety of wildlife and birds, including black bear, cougar and possibly endangered marbled murrelets. The headwaters of May Creek, a seven-mile-long salmon stream that flows into Lake Washington, rise here.

A prominent natural feature visible from State Route 900 on the Mountains to Sound Greenway, this part of Squak Mountain has long been used as a private forest camp and is wedged between Squak Mountain State Park and King County’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.

About The Trust for Public Land
Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at http://www.tpl.org/.

About King County Parks

King County Parks – Your Big Backyard – offers more than 200 parks and 26,000 acres of parks and natural lands, including such regional treasures as Marymoor Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, 175 miles of regional trails, 180 miles of backcountry trails and a world-class aquatic center. By cultivating strong relationships with non-profit, corporate and community partners, King County Parks enhances park amenities while reducing costs. Learn more at http://www.kingcounty.gov/parks/.

6 thoughts on “Final acquisition set for Squak Mountain forest, with King County-The Trust for Public Land accord

  1. I was thrilled to hear this news! I boarded my horses at a facility off May Valley Road and had many great rides over 7 years on Squak years ago. As a former equestrian and lifetime hilker, I am wondering about the “hiking only” comment. Really? No horseback riding on the Squak trails anymore?

    Thank you,

    debbie

    • Thanks for you appreciation of this accomplishment! We are all ecstatic that this was finalized, which will provide immeasurable benefits to our wildlife and the public.
      Regarding equestrian use, there will be no equestrian use allowed in the newly acquired K. Co. land. That new acquisition borders the north part of Squak Mt. State Park, which has not allowed equestrian use due to the agreement made long ago between the State and the Bullitt family (with the Bullitt’s gift of the land). The agreement was that there would be no equestrian use, no bikes/motorized, etc. Equestrian use is still allowed in the south part of the Park.

      • To clarify, the north portion of the State Park restricts bike/equestrian use. Up until the County opens up the newly acquired acreage, they will be going through the decision making process regarding which uses will be appropriate there.

  2. Hello and thank you to everyone at SaveSquak for succeeding in your coordinated effort to secure this land for public use. The threat of clearcutting this forest was very real. I live within a stone’s throw of the property, so anything is better than a clearcut. If the property becomes restricted only to people who walk on trails, so be it. Better than a clearcut. Better than a housing development.

    In any case, I would like to to comment that I know this property fairly well, having walked through it numerous times when it was still the old campground. There is a tremendous opportunity to use this as a type of partnership to promote the local economy. Huge potential.

    For one thing, every weekend even in the wintertime, people from all over King County flock to Tiger, Squak and Cougar Mtn trails. Parking lots are packed, people just love this forest. The newly-acquired property has just tons of parking, more parking that any other park trailhead.

    There are also fairly decent structures on the property. Offices, large clubhouse, etc. Sport courts look good too.

    This is a real opportunity to promote tourism which will benefit local merchants and residents. If, for example, every weekend local merchants were allowed to setup tables to sell local food, local handicrafts, etc. This is a type of enterprise that sustains a community and gives young people life lessons. Open this property up to merchants similar to the Pickering Barn Saturday market, and promote the goods of all the locals around here who have hobbies such as welding, artwork, handcrafts, etc. Giving local residents the chance to meet there and sell things to all the people who come, creates a situation where everyone wins.

    All over the nation, local farmers markets are bursting at the seams — no limit to the amount of public interest in supporting them. The lower 20 acres of this property is just a perfect venue..

    There should also be an attractive entrance to the park constructed, and if at all possible, a rustic style flyover bridge (to allow people to walk over SR900). You can see pedestrian bridges at other parks. It will draw more people to this park, and at the same time save lives because, and I hate to say it might happen, but there will be a lot of people possibly getting struck by cars walking across SR-900 at the entrance to this property, because right across the street is the Cougar Mtn trailhead.

    Tourism. Our own style of good local PNW eco tourism promoting these trails, with a small market offering local vendors the opportunity to participate in the economy and help themselves, I can’t imagine that this would require too much initial investment, and reasonable vendor fees should cover the administrative burden.

    Please share these ideas with appropriate decision-makers throughout the planning phases. Thank you.

    • Thanks for all your great comments and ideas! Personally, I especially like the idea of a bridge over SR900…but would love to see the bridge wide enough for people and wildlife to cross! We’ll make sure your comments are shared within our reach.

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