Marge Curtis and her husband owned Carousel Ranch, a horse-boarding facility, on property along Highway 9 near Brightwater. The property was sold to Snohomish County to be a 65-acre park. But Marge Curtis, now a widow, will continue to live there as part of a life estate agreement. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Former owner will live on land that’s set to become a park

Marge Curtis looks out over a gorgeous expanse of grassy land, a horse farm that slopes down to Highway 9. The place known as Carousel Ranch is no longer hers, but she’s happy.

“I’ve been blessed with the most glorious place to live,” the 86-year-old Curtis said. In the kitchen of the Maltby home she shared with her late husband, Allen Curtis, she talked Wednesday about selling their land to Snohomish County for a park.

The county’s $9 million deal to buy their 65 acres closed in October 2015. Two months later, Marge Curtis lost her husband. Allen Curtis, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II, who for decades ran Curtis Towing and Trucking in Lynnwood.

Although she now doesn’t own the place set to open in 2020 as Snohomish County’s 110th park, Curtis will be able to live in her home the rest of her life. A life-estate arrangement was part of the deal, said Tom Teigen, the county parks director.

The four-and-a-half-acre life estate covers Curtis’ home, her landscaped pond where the couple once had a garden railway system, and “the whole area around her house,” Teigen said.

Curtis, a mother of six, grandmother of 17, and great-grandmother of “a bunch,” said she has no plans to move. She’s excited to see the park that will soon start taking shape.

Teigen said plans include five lighted synthetic-turf fields, trails, two playgrounds, a spray pad, and an off-leash area. There will also be pickleball courts, a first for Snohomish County parks, he said.

“We’re all for it,” said Curtis, who recently learned planners want to name the site Carousel Ranch Community Park.

“I’m so tickled, I couldn’t be happier,” she said. And she won’t mind the arrival of park construction workers. “I’m looking forward to it. The coffee pot’s on,” Curtis said.

Teigen said that although a name hasn’t yet been approved, it was favorably mentioned at a recent County Council meeting. In planning, it’s been called Maltby Area Community Park, but a Maltby Community Park already exists.

This month marks the end of an era at Carousel Ranch. Curtis’ daughter, Katherine Batts, has operated it since 1994 as a horse-boarding facility.

“My daughter had as many as 65 horses here,” Curtis said. By next week, Teigen said, the few horses remaining on the property will be moved elsewhere. Batts lives across Highway 9 from Carousel Ranch.

Curtis said the place was a horse ranch long before she and her husband bought the property in 1980. “It’s been an active farm since the 1890s,” she said, adding that racehorses were once trained on the farm’s rolling hills.

More than a decade ago, the county approached the couple asking to buy the property where they had built their dream house. “We said we didn’t want to sell, but they kept coming back,” Curtis said. Eventually, they decided it was time to sell.

The land was acquired by way of a 2005 Brightwater mitigation agreement between King and Snohomish counties for construction of the Brightwater Treatment Plant. King County’s sewage treatment facility, which is in Snohomish County, is just south of the park property.

According to Herald writer Noah Haglund’s 2015 article about the purchase, the money came from the $70 million settlement Snohomish County reached with King County. It stipulated that Snohomish County must use some of that money to build a park within four miles of Brightwater.

Snohomish County first planned for a park at what was once the Wellington Hills golf course, north of Woodinville. That 104-acre site was purchased by the county in 2012 from the University of Washington. Neighbors strongly opposed park construction there. “We ran into a buzz saw with Woodinville,” Teigen said.

The county is in the process of selling the Wellington land to the Northshore School District. Bruce Dees &Associates, a Tacoma-based landscape architecture firm, is designing the Carousel park. Soon, the old buildings will be removed.

“One barn we wanted to keep. We can’t, but will rebuild to emulate it with a new structure,” Teigen said. The shelter will have space for 60 picnic tables, he said.

Carousel Ranch touches the Eastside Rail Corridor, owned by the Port of Seattle. Parts of the corridor in other places are pedestrian and bike trails. In the future, the park’s portion could be part of a trail from Woodinville to Snohomish. Teigen also said restoring Cutthroat Creek, part of the Bear Creek watershed, is an important part of the park project.

County Executive Dave Somers and the County Council have been supportive, he said. “They get it, great communities have great public spaces,” Teigen said. “This makes a difference for multiple generations. Fifty years from now, there will be 65 acres of amazing public space.”

Now and in the future, people will owe thanks to the Curtis family.

“It’s really a bonus to work with someone like Marge and her kids,” Teigen said. “Marge is our best person for promoting the park. She is the true matriarch, a really special person.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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