Mountains to Sound Greenway heritage plan earns King County endorsement
King County Council members endorsed a plan Monday to designate the greenbelt along Interstate 90 from Seattle to Ellensburg as a National Heritage Area.
In a unanimous decision, council members called on Congress to recognize the Mountains to Sound Greenway — a ribbon of conservation lands, recreation areas and suburban cities interspersed among farms and forests — in a federal program for “nationally important” landscapes.
The council motion is the latest support for the National Heritage Area effort. The push includes numerous supporters in Issaquah, such as Mayor Ava Frisinger and the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, a crucial and early greenway backer.
Councilman Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor of the motion, lauded the council for supporting the effort.
“The Mountains to Sound Greenway is truly one of the jewels of the Pacific Northwest,” he said in a statement.
The designation from Congress is meant to highlight a unique feature or local history. The greenway could become the only National Heritage Area in Washington; no other region is designated as such. (Nationwide, Congress has designated 49 heritage areas from coast to coast.)
Though the National Park Service handles oversight for heritage areas, the lands differ from national parks. The designation does not add lands, land-use restrictions or more regulatory authority inside the National Heritage Area.
The greenway includes more than 750,000 acres for education, recreation and environmental conservation.
“The Mountains to Sound Greenway provides some of the most beautiful landscapes in our nation, so it is fitting for designation as a National Heritage Area,” said Councilman Larry Phillips, the Council Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee chairman and a member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Advisory Council. “I have worked throughout my career to help secure and conserve lands that make up the Mountains to Sound Greenway because they are so critical to the heritage and sustainability of our region and nation.”
In 1991, after a march from Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle a year earlier to raise awareness, citizen, conservation, corporate and government interests formed the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to act as a shepherd for the greenbelt. Issaquah Alps Trails Club members played a key role in the 1991 march.
“The Mountains to Sound Greenway has been a bold vision which has been masterfully executed,” council Vice Chairwoman Jane Hague said. “This area absolutely needs to be a national heritage site.”
Federal Highway Administration officials designated the 100-mile greenway as the inaugural National Scenic Byway in 1998.
“The stretch of green that surrounds I-90 showcases the natural beauty of our region, and the council wholeheartedly supports efforts to gain National Heritage Area designation,” said Councilman Bob Ferguson, a cosponsor of the motion and Mountains to Sound Greenway Advisory Council member.