Housing bust proves a boon for Bothell park

BOTHELL — From the freeway, it looks like just another patch of woods ripe for new housing development once the economy revives.

From the air, the forested stretch along I-405 reveals itself as part of a green ribbon buffering an active salmon creek. The appearance of a “sold” sign in mid-December marked a 35-acre patch of western red cedar, western hemlock and Douglas fir as property of the city of Bothell.

“They were just getting ready to build on it when the housing crisis hit,” said Jim Freese, the volunteer serving as interim director of the Friends of North Creek Forest group that helped the city buy the land.

The idea is to keep the woods as a nature preserve for the fast-developing area surrounding North Creek, which drains much of south Snohomish County and flows into the Sammamish River and Juanita Bay on the north end of Lake Washington.

The woods, on a steep, eastern-facing slope, provide a nearly mile-long natural filter for water that drains into the salmon-spawning stream on the other side of I-405. The woods also provide habitat for an array of fauna that includes pileated woodpeckers, black-tailed deer, coyotes and salamanders.

“This is the biggest piece of the puzzle and some of the very best land,” said Woody Wheeler, a consultant who has been working with the Friends group. “It’s really an integral part of a much larger ecosystem.”

The city paid the Boy Scouts of America $460,000 for the land. That’s a steep markdown from its current appraisal of $700,000. The land could have fetched at least $1 million during the building boom a few years ago, said Bryan Zemp, a real estate agent who represented the Boy Scouts in the transaction.

“The Scouts took a big discount on this,” Zemp said. “They felt it was the right thing to do.”

The Boy Scouts’ local branch, the Chief Seattle Council, had owned the land since the late 1970s. A family originally donated the acreage so the Boy Scouts could raise money by developing it, Zemp said. Lately, however, the Scouts have been selling off properties to focus on its core mission of serving youth, rather than branching into property management.

The acreage the city just bought is part of an undeveloped, wedge-shaped tract of 64 acres. Friends of North Creek Forest hopes to buy another 6-acre piece with a $100,000 federal grant, Freese said.

Bothell intends to keep the woods as a passive park, meaning there are few plans to alter the landscape beyond trail building and interpretive signs.

“The Bothell City Council, city staff and our citizens worked for years to bring together the public-private partnership that has preserved this beautiful forest,” Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb said.

Money for the purchase came partly from property taxes collected for Snohomish County’s Conservation Futures program. There also was a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce. King County’s Conservation Futures program and parks levy covered the price for the portion of the woods south of the King-Snohomish County line. Bothell straddles both counties.

The woods stand about a mile northeast of downtown Bothell.

One main asset is its close proximity to an estimated 9,000 students, Freese said. The goal is to turn the area into a living biology laboratory for students of all ages, “from K through Ph.D.”

The woods border Canyon Park Junior High School to the north and a wetland-restoration project to the south maintained by the University of Washington’s Bothell campus. Cascadia Community College and other schools are nearby as well.

The deal, closed Dec. 15, stems from a decade of work started by another grass-roots group, Help Our Woods. The Friends group, which shares many of the same members, formed in February and has since put in an estimated 3,000 hours or more of volunteer effort into research, grant writing and networking. Along with Freese, a retired electrician, active members include a junior high science teacher, a UW biology professor and a registered nurse, among others.

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

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Freeland massage therapist charged with sex crimes

The judge set bail at $7,500 for the health care provider, who was accused of sexually assaulting two clients last year.

Lynnwood
Suspected DUI crash injures trooper on I-5 north in Lynnwood

WSP spokesperson said two suspected impaired drivers have crashed into a state trooper in the past 24 hours.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

State Trooper Isaiah Oliver speaks to a BNSF worker at mile marker 31.7 as road closures and evacuations mount in response to the Bolt Creek Fire on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022, on U.S. 2 near Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
As wildfires creep west of Cascades, county plans for next Bolt Creek

Wildfires are an increasing concern in Snohomish County. A new project aims to develop a better plan.

Everett High seniors, from left, Avery Thompson, Lanie Thompson, Melissa Rosales-Alfaro and Saron Mulugeta sit together in front of their school on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The group have called to question their district’s policy that does not permit graduates to decorate their mortarboards or graduation clothing. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
After student campaign, Everett schools allows custom graduation caps

“It’s a really good first step,” the Everett High School ASB president said. But the students still want relaxed rules for future classes.

People hang up hearts with messages about saving the Clark Park gazebo during a “heart bomb” event hosted by Historic Everett on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Future of historic Clark Park gazebo now in hands of City Council

On June 5, the Everett council is set to decide whether to fund removal of the gazebo. It could be stored elsewhere.

People fill the board room for public comment during a Marysville School Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Struggling Marysville schools dropped from insurance pool

In an unprecedented move, the board of the Washington Schools Risk Management Pool voted to drop the district by August.

A cyclist heads along Federal Avenue past a bike route sign near 46th Street SE on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Bike sign project marks lanes, distances for Everett cyclists

Around the city, crews are putting up over 200 signs, geared toward helping bicyclists find their way around.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.