The Mountains to Sound Greenway is a prized place to live, work, and play because we have spectacular open spaces, accessible parks, and thousands of miles of trails. But these lands cannot take care of themselves. With our population booming, demand for outdoor recreation is skyrocketing and our public land agencies are struggling to keep up.
The Greenway Trust will be advocating in Olympia this winter for sufficient funding to keep these parks, forests, and trails open, safe, and healthy. We fear that if we don’t keep pace with the demand we will be paying the price for decades to come with extensive damage and overuse.
Several of our top legislative priorities include:
Funding for Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
While not widely known as a recreation-providing agency, DNR lands encompass some of the most popular outdoor recreation in the Greenway, including places such as Mt. Si, Mailbox Peak, and Tiger Mountain. But recreation demand is outpacing supply. The Greenway Trust has worked closely with DNR to address this, with a mix of new locations and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. If DNR’s budget request is fully funded, hikers, bikers, and equestrians will see improvements over the next few years, including new mountain bike trails and a trailhead in the Raging River State Forest near Preston, expansions of both the Mailbox Peak and Mt. Si trailheads, a new family-friendly day use area along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, and expansion of the Dirty Harry’s Balcony trail network near exit 38.
Funding for Teanaway Community Forest
This 50,000-acre forest on the eastern side of the Greenway is a jewel in our state lands. Since it was acquired in 2013 to protect the headwaters of the Yakima River, local communities and stakeholder groups have come together to craft a management plan for its future. But securing state funding has been tough, leaving its future in limbo. We cannot lose this incredible place to neglect. We’re joining dozens of other nonprofits to advocate for operations and capital improvement funding for the Teanaway. These funds will address issues with forest health and fire safety, collapsing bridges, campground improvements, and law enforcement. There is strong interest in investing in the Teanaway by the federal government, the Yakama Nation, statewide recreation and conservation organizations, and the local community, but the state is currently lacking the basic staffing to even evaluate and accept these outside investments. Adding a staffer ensures we aren’t leaving this extra money on the table.
Funding for Washington State Parks
Outdoor recreation is an important economic driver for small communities across our state. State Parks play a crucial role in this, providing not only trails and water sports, but also picnic locations, family-friendly activities, and easy accessibility. It is important that we continue to invest in keeping this agency healthy and reducing the $500 million backlog of deferred maintenance. State Parks has done an outstanding job increasing revenue through Discover Pass and camping fees, but cannot become fully self-sufficient on these alone. They still require additional funding to meet basic needs. We will be asking State Legislators for increased capital and operational funding for State Parks. We need to keep these parks open and safe for all visitors. Popular locations in the Greenway that could benefit include Iron Horse State Park (with its cross-state John Wayne Trail), Lake Easton State Park, Lake Sammamish State Park, and several more.
Funding for No Child Left Inside
Connecting youth with nature is central to the Greenway’s work. We’re currently in Olympia advocating for a special funding program—‘No Child Left Inside’—which helps provide under-served students with quality opportunities to experience the natural world. If the State legislature fully funds this grant program at $2 million it would allow local schools and community groups to work with thousands of youth across the state, connecting them to outdoor education and recreation. These outdoor experiences not only help students improve their academic performance, personal growth, and community involvement, but also introduces students to a variety of nature-based career opportunities that can enhance learning engagement in the classroom.
Funding for the Wilburton Trestle
The historic Wilburton Trestle is the longest wooden trestle in the Pacific Northwest, and is a well-known landmark that looms east of I-405 in Bellevue. This former BNSF railway crossing is also the biggest trail gap in the Eastside Rail Corridor—the future King County regional trail between the King-Snohomish county line that follows the old railroad route through Woodinville, Kirkland, Bellevue, and to Renton. King County will be opening an interim trail on parts of the route through Kirkland, Bellevue, and Renton in 2017. But repairs are needed on this historic trestle to make it safe and accessible for walkers and bicyclists. With $5 million pledged in local funding, Governor Inslee has proposed an additional $5 million from the state legislature in the 2017 capital budget. Funding toward this essential infrastructure improvement will open an iconic railway trestle for public views, recreation, and off-road transportation in our quickly-growing region.
Funding for Land Conservation and Restoration
We will also be advocating for the full funding of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and the Floodplains by Design partnership. These programs give grants to communities across our state, making possible many of our land conservation and restoration goals. Critical projects being proposed in this budget include: New trails in the Mt. Si NRCA, land acquisition on Rattlesnake and Tiger Mountains, and river restoration projects on the Snoqualmie, Sammamish, and Yakima rivers. With the Land and Water Conservation Fund in danger in Washington DC, these state funding sources are as crucial as ever to protecting our sensitive Washington lands.
Sufficient funding for our public lands is crucial to maintaining our region’s quality of life. We believe that life is better when we are connected with nature, that our economy is stronger and our communities healthier. These lands cannot take care of themselves. It takes all of us raising our voices in support and lending a hand to keep them open and safe for all of us to use.
You can help:
- Contact your local state representative and say “I support our public lands, keep them fully funded”
- Volunteer to take care of these lands, by planting a tree or repairing a trail
- Support our work in Olympia by donating