Nine years after buying most of the land, the county is finally ready to open Paradise Valley Conservation Area. Officials have tried to ensure that hikers, cyclists and horseback riders could co-exist with the area's wildlife.
"Having a major park asset like this, almost 800 acres, is going to be an amazing gift to generations to come," said Tom Teigen, county parks director.
County officials plan to mark Earth Day at 4 p.m. today with a ribbon-cutting near the park entrance on Paradise Lake Road.
Paradise Valley sits immediately north of the King County line and encompasses most of the headwaters of Bear Creek. The creek is a Sammamish River tributary and its waters eventually reach Lake Washington.
The county began negotiating to buy 667 acres of the conservation area in 2000 from the Lloyd family, descendents of the original homesteaders who settled there in 1887.
The county eventually paid $3 million for the land and timber rights through a public-private partnership. Funding came from a state salmon recovery grant, the Snohomish County Conservation Futures program, plus a grant-matching from King County and the Martin Miller Fund.
Last year, the county bought another adjacent 126 acres for $1.9 million.
Bear Creek is one of the more productive salmon streams in the area, said Tom Murdoch, the county park department's senior naturalist and director of the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation. It supports the chinook, coho and sockeye species as well as other fish such as steelhead, cutthroat trout, dace, sculpin and brook lamprey.
Human visitors to the park should be aware of its environmental sensitivity.
"We want to the public to stay on the trails," Murdoch said. "This site is not just for the public, it's for wildlife, too."
Parks department staff worked with the state Department of Natural Resources and volunteers to ready the trail system.
Brian Crowley, a board member with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, said he used to ride the Paradise Valley trails before the county closed them to the public a half dozen years ago. During those rides, he often spotted discarded hypodermic needles, homeless campsites and motorcycles. He hopes those illicit uses will go away.
"As we like to say, good use crowds out bad use," he said.
As with any good thing, there's a catch. The park only has 37 parking spaces and they're expected to fill up quickly.
About the park
What: Paradise Valley Conservation Area, 793 acres of protected county land with 13 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horse riding.
Where: 23210 Paradise Lake Road, near Maltby, south of Highway 522.
More information: Go to www.snocoparks.org and click on “parks directory.”
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