Mixed uses seen for $25M in conservation grants

EVERETT — Snohomish County should use $25 million in conservation grants to protect land near Meadowdale Beach Park, Japanese Gulch and the Port Susan estuary, an advisory board said Friday.

The Conservation Futures Advisory Board’s recommendations include $3.5 million to extend the Centennial Trail south from Snohomish to Woodinville.

Other potential land purchases are sprinkled throughout the county.

The County Council could finalize the grants as early as next month.

“This is a unique opportunity to conserve vulnerable habitat and open areas in our county,” said County Council Chairwoman Stephanie Wright, who also serves on the conservation board.

Wright, a former Lynnwood city councilwoman, highlighted the board’s recommendation to give Lynnwood $5 million of the $7 million it wanted for a property known as Seabrook Heights. A developer wants to build 70 houses on 13 acres located uphill from Lund’s Gulch and Meadowdale Beach. The city and neighbors in the unincorporated area worry the steep, wet land poses too great a landslide risk.

Lynnwood’s application accounted for the largest slice of $34 million worth of requests the seven-member board considered. Applications came from cities, the county parks department and nonprofits.

The board is made up of local elected officials at the county and cities as well as two members of the general public. Its job is to rank potential acquisitions for their value to the public, to the natural environment, and for farming.

For this round, the board chose projects ranging from .03 acres, on the Edmonds waterfront, to 326 acres, for an easement on the Bailey farm in Snohomish.

County Executive John Lovick is set to pass those recommendations to the County Council for approval.

“It’s important that we preserve this space for our children and grandchildren,” Lovick said in the county’s press release about the conservation program.

Among the board’s other recommendations was giving the city of Mukilteo almost all of the $2.5 million it sought to buy up 98 acres near Japanese Gulch.

Stanwood also can expect most of the $2.3 million needed to buy 15 acres of estuary at the former Ovenell farm near the Camano Gateway Bridge.

The county parks department could receive $1.8 million for timberland adjoining Flowing Lake County Park. That’s less than the original request, which also included a golf course. Additionally, the parks department stands to get $1.7 million in grants for 167 acres at Storm Lake east of Snohomish.

Woodway could get nearly $1.7 million in the Deer Creek watershed. The town had asked for $3.5 million to buy nine acres.

The Seattle-based nonprofit Forterra stands to get more than $1 million for an easement that would keep the 210-acre Anderson Farm near Arlington in agriculture.

Applications not making the cut came from Brier, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Darrington. Several requests from the county parks department were turned down as well.

The county began its Conservation Futures Program in 1988 to distribute property taxes that the state allows counties to collect for land preservation.

This round was made possible by a $120 million bond sale the county conducted in April. The bonds also are being used for a new county courthouse, park infrastructure projects and road improvements.

The county plans to pay back the Conservation Futures portion of the bond using future revenues. Official said they’re acting now to take advantage of low interest rates before land prices rise or get snapped up for development.

The county made a similar move in the 1990s.

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

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