County to buy land for trail south of Snohomish

EVERETT — Snohomish County plans to pass up, for now, the chance to buy nearly 170 acres of conservation land on Storm Lake east of Snohomish.

Instead, the county will shift most of the $1.7 million to buying an old rail corridor between Snohomish and Woodinville.

That was biggest change the County Council made Wednesday when it approved a $25 million list of conservation grants for protecting parkland, wilderness and farms.

Other grants are headed for land conservation in Stanwood, Edmonds and Darrington, and many points in between.

“You give a little, you get a little,” said Councilman John Koster, who had feelings of “consternation” about some projects. “Overall, I think it’s a good list.”

The grants are part of the county’s Conservation Futures Program. An advisory board this summer received applications for $34 million in proposals from cities, the county parks department and nonprofit groups. The board last month recommended projects to support.

Some of the largest grants are intended to help Mukilteo and Lynnwood buy land that otherwise could become housing developments.

With $2.5 million from the county grant program, Mukilteo and its partners have amassed $4.3 million to buy 98 acres in Japanese Gulch, said Paige DeChambeau, executive director of the nonprofit Japanese Gulch Group. The group expects the price to be $6 million or more, but is awaiting an updated appraisal before trying to negotiate a purchase.

Lynnwood is set to receive $5 million of an estimated $7 million purchase price for 13 acres uphill from Lund’s Gulch and the county’s Meadowdale Beach Park. A developer has plans to build 70 homes on the property, which is known as Seabrook Heights.

The county is preparing to use $5 million in conservation grants to buy an 11-mile stretch of the Eastside Rail Corridor from the Port of Seattle.

County leaders hope they can finish the deal within the next few months, parks director Tom Teigen said. Plans are to use the rail line for a southward Centennial Trail extension, for tourist trains and even for commuter rail service.

Another grant-funded purchase in Snohomish drew criticism. Teigen and Snohomish city officials defended using a $500,000 grant to buy 20 acres of farmland on the Snohomish River next to downtown. The state plans to build a new boat launch there if the deal goes through. The area also is envisioned for an eastward extension of the city’s riverfront trail and the county’s Centennial Trail.

Snohomish resident Morgan Davis spoke out during the meeting to argue the asking price far exceeds the land’s appraised value.

Teigen and Snohomish city project manager Ann Stanton said they received an appraisal for about $7,500 per acre, which works out to roughly $150,000 for the whole property. However, they said the land’s location — next to downtown, Cady Park and existing recreation trails — makes it too good an opportunity to pass up. They said they’ve been trying to buy it from the Stocker family for 20 years.

“A real estate transaction is ultimately about a willing seller and a willing buyer and a negotiated price,” Teigen said.

Separately, Marysville turned down a $100,000 conservation grant because it wasn’t enough for a proposed project. That money and other leftovers were redirected to help Darrington and Mountlake Terrace with land purchases.

The County Council voted 4-1 to approve the projects, with Councilman Dave Somers of Monroe opposed. Somers said he disagreed with shifting money from the Storm Lake purchase to the Eastside Rail Corridor because he thinks county road funds should have been used instead.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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