King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan to buy up 65,000 acres of land for conservation at a May 23 press conference in Tukwila. Photo by Josh Kelety

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan to buy up 65,000 acres of land for conservation at a May 23 press conference in Tukwila. Photo by Josh Kelety

King County considers buying 65,000 acres for conservation

The proposed plan would protect forests, trails, shorelines, and farms.

The Puget Sound is known for the natural beauty of its lush green belts and idyllic shorelines, and King County Executive Dow Constantine says he wants to protect that aspect of Northwest identity by purchasing 65,000 acres of county land for conservation purposes.

The plan would acquire an estimated 13,500 acres of farmland, 125 miles of space for trails connecting Eastside cities, 20,600 acres of natural lands for wildlife and recreation, 2,400 acres of green and open space in urban centers, and 26,500 acres of forestlands. Purposed property purchases include land near the Tolt River for salmon habitat restoration, dairy farmland near Enumclaw, and the lakeshore trails on the Weyerhaeuser campus in Federal Way.

In a legislative initiative rolled out on May 23, Constantine seeks to finance the land acquisitions by selling bonds. The value of the bonds would be covered by the projected revenue from the Conservation Futures Tax—a property tax for land conservation established in 1982. The plan would bring in roughly $148 million over four years.

“This is an exciting moment to save the last best places in King County and make sure that every community has access to green space,” Constantine said at a May 23 press conference at a open parcel in Tukwila slated to receive funding that would transform it into a urban green space. “Saving these places and creating green space for all is important to our future, and it’s as important as investments in affordable housing or in transportation or in any other aspect of infrastructure.”

Constantine said that the legislation will be sent to the King County Council today for consideration.

Bob Burns, Deputy Director of the King County Department of Natural Resources told Seattle Weekly that—given the region’s explosive growth, increasing property values, and high demand for land for development—the county should act now to acquire land for conservation before it becomes more expensive.

Constantine reiterated this point. “We will be able to do this more effectively and less expensively if we act now.”

The 65,000 acres were identified by county officials over the past several years and the selections were endorsed in December 2015 by the King County Land Conservation Advisory Group, a group of local elected officials and other stakeholders convened by Constantine.

Additionally, Constantine said that he will be establishing a new “open space equity cabinet” composed of “community leaders and residents” that would seek to reduce inequities in access to green spaces that exist between low-income communities and their wealthier counterparts.

Tukwila City Councilmember De’Sean Quinn framed the issue in social and economic justice terms at the May 23 press conference. “There are deserts of open space throughout King County, most of them in communities with the greatest and the most acute needs, where people and children cannot safely walk to a patch of green to relax, to de-stress, or to kick a ball around,” he said.

Research has found significant ties between access to green space and positive health outcomes, as well as spatial disparities along socioeconomic lines when it comes to access to parks and urban green space.

The legislation will also remove a cost-sharing mandate attached to the conservation fund that requires local jurisdictions to match county land conservation investments, a policy that officials say disadvantages small cities in the county with less-than-flush tax coffers.

“With the removal of the local funding match for communities like this, conservation futures funding is accessible to Tukwila,” Quinn said during the press conference at the open land parcel in Tukwila. “And now we will take action to purchase this property and turn it into a park for this community.”

jkelety@soundpublishing.com

More in News

Auburn Municipal Airport, which began operations in 1969, is one of the busiest of its kind in the state. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Airport Appreciation Day to take wing Sept. 29

Displays, food, activities part of special event open to the public

Attending the Breakfast for Kids are, from left: Mark Hendricks, Federal Way and Auburn Boys and Girls Club; Jen Cohen, athletic director, University of Washington; Wanda and Ron Crockett; and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. COURTESY PHOTO
Federal Way and Auburn Boys and Girls Club breakfast raises a record breaking $71,470

Breakfast for Kids, an annual fundraiser for the Federal Way and Auburn… Continue reading

Mayor’s food drive begins week of Sept. 24

Put donations out on your Waste Management collection day

Salmon SEEson’ returns: Spot fish coming home to King County rivers and streams

Native salmon – including sockeye, chinook, coho and chum – have begun… Continue reading

Show of classic chrome

Hot Rod Garage Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show shines at the Bus Barn Bonanza Bazaar

Gerstman chosen as vice president at Highline College

Higher ed, fundraising veteran to join leadership team

City awards contract to provide new roadway markings

The work calls for the removal of paint and thermoplastic road channelization… Continue reading

World War II veterans are special guests at breakfast

World War II veterans attended a quarterly breakfast sponsored by the Muckelshoot… Continue reading

Catch Sounder train to Seahawks game Sept. 23

Stops in Auburn, Kent and Tukwila before reaching Seattle

Most Read