Deadline Looms to Save Bellevue, WA Woods

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON, 11/6/01 – Development of the 22-acre McTavish Highlands property in the Woodridge neighborhood has been attempted for many years. Due to financial constraints, neighborhood outcry, environmental restrictions and building obstacles caused in part by precipitous hillside, surface water seep sites and problematical soil issues, all attempts thus far have been unsuccessful. The lack of movement in development is nearing an end and with the city expanding at record rates and urban open space declining at an equal pace, the community is pleading for a solution that would protect the precious landscape and wildlife habitat.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the landowners of McTavish Highlands have worked extensively to find a conservation solution for the property. Resources are needed to complete the transaction and convey the land to the Bellevue Parks Department. Funding alternatives such as grant proposals have not been successful due in part to the complex relationship of water runoff migration into the nearby and hydraulically connected Richards Creek. If a funding solution is not secured in the next few months, development of the three multi-family condominiums in the single-family residential neighborhood will begin as soon as TPL’s option to purchase expires.

Woodridge Community Association President Barbara Sauerbrey stated, “The scarcity of open space is a growing concern especially when precious land is being taken away in our own neighborhoods. If McTavish Highlands is developed, the character of the entire community would be irreparably harmed not to mention the severe loss of wildlife habitat.”

While development plans only cover 7% of the property, numerous studies indicate dramatic impact to the entire acreage that would result in loss of habitat and animal life and permanently impair at least one of the three wetlands on the property. Findings from the City of Bellevue Riparian Corridor Inventory Report, McTavish Highlands Site (October 1995) and the McTavish Highlands Riparian and Fisheries Study (January 2001) show that the proposed development is likely to cause irreparable damage to the habitat of threatened salmon species in Richards Creek and the Kelsey Creek Basin.

In addition to providing critical riparian corridors and wildlife habitat, McTavish Highlands offers the community the increasingly-rare gift of urban open space. Conservation of the land would ensure the continuation of low-impact recreation opportunities and environmental education activities. The City of Bellevue Parks Department has also identified the site for a future low-impact trail.

The Trust for Public Land is a private, nonprofit land conservation organization that works across the nation to conserve land for people. Founded in 1972, TPL specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance and law to protect land for public use. Working with private landowners, communities and government agencies, TPL has helped protect more than 2,100 special places nationwide for people to enjoy as parks, playgrounds, community gardens, historic landmarks and wilderness lands. For more information about TPL’s work in Washington and the Northwest, please call (206) 587-2447.