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What is the Mountains to Sound Greenway?

By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah Press

Like the matter-of-fact name suggests, the Mountains to Sound Greenway starts amid fried fish counters and souvenir shops along the Seattle waterfront, unfurls along Interstate 90, encompassing cities and forests, and continues on, across the Cascades.

The greenbelt represents decades of effort to protect the natural landscape along the interstate, even as Issaquah and other Eastside cities experienced a population explosion in recent years.

Issaquah Alps Trails Club members spearheaded a 1990 march from Snoqualmie Pass to Puget Sound to attract attention to the proposed greenbelt — a sort of Central Park for Western Washington.

The next year, citizen, conservation, corporate and government interests behind the proposal united to form the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to oversee greenbelt preservation.

Forests along the bustling interstate provide habitat for black bears and other species. Trails meander along the greenway, from flat sidewalks in suburban cities to paths perched on mountainsides. Crews log some areas in a compromise between economic and environmental interests.

Mountains to Sound Greenway by the numbers

  • 1.5 million — total Mountains to Sound Greenway acreage
  • 26 — number of times the greenway is larger than Seattle
  • 900,000-plus — acres of public land in the greenway
  • 110 — miles from Seattle to Ellensburg
  • 29 — number of cities on the greenway

Mountains to Sound Greenway timeline

Major initiatives and land acquisitions in the Issaquah area shaped the greenway during the past 22 years.

1990 — Citizens, led by the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, march from Snoqualmie Pass to the Seattle waterfront to dramatize the need for a greenway plan.

1991 — Citizens form the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. Seattle civic leader Jim Ellis is the founding president.

1992 — The state Department of Natural Resources designates more than 4,000 acres on Tiger Mountain, just east of Issaquah, as a natural resource conservation area.

1996 — King County initiates a 4-to-1 land-use program on Grand Ridge to preserve 1,400 acres of open space.

1998 — Federal Highway Administration officials designate the 100-mile greenway as a National Scenic Byway.

2005 — Major ecological restoration project at Lake Sammamish starts, and adds 4,500 native trees and shrubs.

2008 — Issaquah acquires 10 parcels along Issaquah Creek to protect stream quality and expand a city park.

2011 — Marchers re-create the 1990 trek from Central Washington to the Seattle waterfront.

2012 — Organizers launch a campaign to convince Congress to recognize the greenway as a National Heritage Area.

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