Last Chance to Save Tollgate Farm (WA)

North Bend, WA, 5/25/01- King County, the City of North Bend and the Trust for Public Land, have announced the final opportunity to save the 400-acre Tollgate Farm from development and preserve it instead for wildlife habitat, open space and public recreation. For several years, local residents have watched with concern as the historic property was slated for development as a one million square foot office park and residential subdivision.

Last week, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) obtained an option to purchase the entire 400-acre Tollgate Farm property in three phases. The purchase can only proceed if enough public and private funds can be found to meet the property’s price. The first phase will protect more than 300 acres of environmentally sensitive land and must be completed this July. TPL will then have through September 30 to purchase 50-acres of meadow, which is the most significant portion of the property, and includes the historic Tollgate farmhouse and stunning views of Mt. Si. The deadline to preserve the final 30 acres of the property is December 2002.

If the needed funds are found, the farm would be jointly owned by the City of North Bend and King County. The City and County’s total purchase price for the property, which will be established by an independent appraisal, is estimated to be between $12 and $14 million.

Mayor Joan Simpson of North Bend urged local residents to remember that, at this point, sufficient funding is not available to save Tollgate Farm. “We all have a lot of hard work ahead of us over the next few months to make the dream of preserving Tollgate a reality,” Mayor Simpson said. The Mayor detailed public funding strategies for the project, including the City submitting a grant application to the Conservation Futures Program, seeking to use funding associated with the City’s sewer utility, and proposing a voter-approved $3 million bond campaign on the September 18th Primary Election to raise the City’s portion of the purchase price.

“North Bend has consistently said that we want to preserve our rural character by protecting critical opens spaces like Tollgate Farm. We now have an opportunity to accomplish this, but it will require our citizens to come out to the polls in September to show their support,” said Mayor Simpson.

King County Executive Ron Sims highlighted the importance of the property for the citizens of all of King County, “The Tollgate Farm is a critical link in a 1,200 acre regional network of protected open space. Through existing public land, it connects to the 94,000-acre Cedar River Watershed, the 180,000-acre Mt. Baker Snoqualmie Forest and the 90,000-acre Snoqualmie Tree Farm. It is a valuable historic site that includes magnificent wetland forests, an important natural reach of the South Fork of the Snoqualmie and a healthy wildlife corridor used by elk, black bear, and cougar. King County has been working on preservation of the Tollgate Farm since 1996 and appropriated $3 million for this project. I will recommend another $2 million for Tollgate over the next two years.”

Roger Hoesterey, Northwest Regional Director for the Trust for Public Land, said, “Tollgate Farm is one of the most important remaining properties in the upper Snoqualmie Valley. This property can provide a wildlife corridor as well as a recreation resource for the area. TPL has been pursuing this property for several years and we are excited to work with North Bend and King County to see this property placed into public ownership and protected for future generations to enjoy.”

Mayor Simpson added, “We will be forming a citizens committee to head up the bond campaign over the summer. A lot of people have worked very hard to bring us this far along, but the hardest part will be over the next few months. We will be asking the City Council to approve the bond resolution in June and it will be on the ballot in September, so we need everyone in North Bend who wants to see this land protected to register to vote and go to the polls on September 18th.”

The landowner, Miller Land and Timber Company, is supportive of the City and County efforts to purchase the property. However, they will continue planning for the potential development of the site, in the event the sale is not completed.