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County acquires Cougar Mountain land for park

By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah Press
King County has acquired 41 acres near Issaquah to be added someday to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.

King County has acquired 41 acres near Issaquah to be added someday to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.

Officials and open space groups considered the land — west of Newport Way Northwest and south of Northwest Oakcrest Drive — as a high priority for conservation.

County planners aim to purchase additional land in the area to connect Newport Way Northwest to the 3,115-acre park. The parcel is located in the northeast corner of the preserve.

The county used $1.55 million from the King County Parks expansion levy and the Conservation Futures open space program levy to purchase the forested site near the Summerhill neighborhood. The deal closed Dec. 3.“The main benefit of it is, is linking Issaquah and the Talus area with the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park,” Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said Dec. 15.

City Parks Planner Margaret Macleod applied for Conservation Futures funding more than a year ago. The county allocated dollars to the city, but in the end, the city transferred the funds back to King County for the county to acquire the Cougar Mountain parcel.

The city has eyed the property for decades, and a city trails plan completed in 1992 identified the parcel as a key piece in the regional trails network. The land is just beyond city limits.

The county and city — plus the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Cascade Land Conservancy and the Issaquah Alps Trails Club — sought for years to preserve the land.

The city and county applied for grant dollars to purchase the parcel in the past, to no avail.

The trails club identified the need to protect the area, called the Precipice Trail Corridor, and joined the city to protect the trail and wildlife habitat.

If the county, city or other entities can acquire additional land, plans for the site call for a trailhead and a parking lot to be built on county land near the latest acquisition — and within walking distance from the Issaquah Transit Center along state Route 900.

The land is also part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, the greenbelt arranged along Interstate 90 from the Seattle waterfront to Central Washington.

“The greenway was originally envisioned as ‘Wilderness on the Metro,’ with the ability to take public transportation to get to nearby recreation,” Cynthia Welti, executive director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, said in a statement. “Thanks to King County, this property will help make Cougar Mountain an accessible hiking destination for residents of Issaquah and Greater Puget Sound.”

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