DARRINGTON — A new 33-acre county park along the Whitehorse Trail is meant to be a place for hiking, bird watching or resting near the Stillaguamish River.
Snohomish County purchased the land in September for $310,000. The nonprofit Forterra negotiated the sale between the county and the Curtis family, who owned the property for more than 90 years.
The family started looking to preserve the piece of forest about 10 years ago, said Jeff Curtis, of Snoqualmie. His relatives have a long history in Snohomish County. His great-great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran, moved to Washington with his adult children in the early 1900s. The family settled in Snohomish, then Granite Falls. Jeff’s uncle, Charles Curtis, used to be the police chief in Granite Falls and his great-grandfather owned a creamery downtown.
A member of the Curtis family bought the property near Darrington from the county in 1923, according to a deed Jeff Curtis found while researching the land. The family owned the land just shy of 93 years. He remembers going out there with his father to get firewood. However, his dad didn’t show him much of the property. It wasn’t until his father’s death that Jeff started looking closer at the land and realized the Whitehorse Trail and Stillaguamish River run through it.
“It’s kind of like a resting place. People could rest their horses in the woods there, they can hike around, there’s river access. It’s really a special place,” he said. “I never really got to enjoy it as a kid, but everyone can enjoy it now.”
The land was passed down for at least four generations, he said. He, his brother and sister inherited a one-third share from their dad. His aunt and uncle own the other two-thirds. They agreed to sell the land as long as it would be preserved as forest, wetlands and river habitat.
“It had been in our family so long, it didn’t feel like it would be right to just flip it and have somebody build a house there,” Curtis said. “Our family has this history of community service and this felt like we were serving that history, as well.”
The acreage includes a forest that hasn’t been logged since the 1950s and a stretch of the North Fork Stillaguamish River that cuts through the northern part of the property, according to Forterra.
The Curtis property acts as a buffer for the trail, with a slope, scenic views and second-growth trees that are larger than most found in privately owned forests, said Adam Draper, vice president of conservation and staff attorney for Forterra.
“It’s a wooded corridor all along one side and the other side is a bend in the North Fork Stillaguamish River,” he said. “It has a beautiful view looking out that way and the potential for river access if that’s something the county decides it wants to do.”
About 1,700 feet of the Whitehorse Trail, which runs from Darrington to Arlington, goes through the Curtis property. It’s part of the seven miles that are open to the public on the east end of the 27-mile trail corridor.
Some other portions of the trail are closed. Crews have been working since 2014, after the deadly Oso mudslide, on projects to repair washouts, clear brush and rebuild a mile of the trail through the slide zone. That rebuild is underway now and is expected to be finished this fall.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.