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Reichert pushes for federal recognition of Mountain to Sound Greenway

By Linda Ball
Issaquah Reporter
Issaquah Reporter - If you’ve ever wondered why I-90 doesn’t look like I-5, it’s because of the dedication for the past 20 years of the Mountain to Sound Greenway Trust.

If you’ve ever wondered why I-90 doesn’t look like I-5, it’s because of the dedication for the past 20 years of the Mountain to Sound Greenway Trust.

On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, Congressman Dave Reichert, who represents district 8 - which contains the greenway, announced that he will push legislation to designate the greenway as a National Heritage Area. The bill, H.R. 1785, was introduced to Congress Friday, April 26.

His appearance at the King County Library service center in Issaquah drew former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, former governor Mike Lowry, Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger, King County councilman Reagan Dunn, Jim Ellis - the founding president of the trust and a host of other dignitaries plus staff and board members of the trust.

Current Mountain to Sound Greenway president Bill Chapman made the introductions, explaining that the greenway contains 1.5 million acres consisting of mountains, wilderness lakes, lush forests and farms. Today, 1.4 million people live within the greenway, which includes Seattle.

“Twenty-two years ago a group had a vision — the great outdoors by your back door,” Chapman said.

Chapman said support for the greenway has always been “fiercely bipartisan.”

Reichert, a former King County Sheriff said in that role, part of the job was to patrol I-90, which was often used as a dumping ground.

“It’s sometimes difficult to get things done in D.C., but you’ve got a lot of support right here,” he said.

This would be the first heritage designation for Washington State. Most of the National Heritage areas are on the East coast.

The greenway, which extends from Ellensburg to Puget Sound, is based around three watersheds: The Snoqualmie River basin, the Cedar-Lake Washington basin and the Yakima River basin. There are 28 cities and historic towns in the Greenway.

The National Heritage designation will bring broader public awareness of the area, enhance funding opportunities through increased visibility and partnerships between private and public entities, document the historical aspects of the area and provide directions for future caretakers of public lands.

Private land owners in the greenway will not have to deal with any new regulatory authority and do not have to allow public access to their land. The designation also does not affect water, hunting or fishing rights or legislate the acquisition of new public lands.

Chapman praised Gorton for starting the effort years ago, and also gave kudos to Dunn for continuing to advocate for keeping Washington clean and green.

Gorton said he went to work for Jim Ellis when he got off the bus in Seattle many years ago.

“The success of this venture is the success of tens of thousands of people,” Gorton said.

Gorton said to add Congressman Doc Hastings to the list of people to contact in support of the designation. Before re-districting most of the greenway was in Hasting’s district.

Thanks were in order for the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, too, who Chapman said have been involved since the beginning.

“What a great contribution to our children and grandchildren,” said Governor Lowry. “They will have the opportunity to grow up in this great environment.”

Lowry said this would also be a boost for the economy. Echoing Lowry’s thoughts, Ellis was grateful that Reichert was pushing forward.

“Take a look out there — that’s going to be here for a lot of folks that haven’t been born yet,” Ellis said.

A 200-page feasibility study has been presented to Congress. For more information visit mtsgreenway.org.

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