Final acquisition set for Squak Mountain forest

March 31, 2014

A public celebration is being planned to note the acquisition of 226 acres of high-quality forestland in the Issaquah Alps - the result of a partnership between King County and The Trust for Public Land.

"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 Councilmember 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. Once all 226 acres have been acquired, King County will add the land to its 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).

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.

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