INDEX — A non-profit group has met its fundraising goal to help buy timber land to protect popular hiking trails to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene from logging.
Forterra collected $275,000 in donations by its Monday deadline. The money should allow the Seattle-based nonprofit to purchase 190 acres from Weyerhaeuser, including part of the lower trail. If the group had fallen short, that land could have been logged this winter.
“We were just lucky that the folks who love this place stepped up quickly, so we hit our target,” said Charlie Raines, Forterra’s director of forest conservation. “We feel confident with the money we’ve raised so far. With some additional funds, we should be able to get it across the finish line.”
The fundraising drive kicked off in August. Donations should cover part of an $800,000 purchase price, pending final appraisal. With that money in hand, the group hopes to secure about half the funding from Snohomish County’s Conservation Futures program, the rest from grants.
Weyerhaeuser still plans to log about a third of the property but would leave 500-foot forested buffers around the trail corridor and Bridal Veil Creek. Forterra would take ownership some time in 2018.
“Folks will be enjoying this trail next summer, just like they have for decades,” Raines said.
More than 600 people and groups donated to the effort, which was boosted by a $75,000 matching gift from two sets of donors who wished to remain anonymous. One of those donations came from a couple who took their first hike together on the trail, the other was made in memory of a friend who deeply loved the trail, according to a news release.
The Washington Trails Association, The Mountaineers, Washington Alpine Club, Outdoor Research and REI supported the fundraising effort.
The U.S. Forest Service is closing the trails as a safety precaution while logging is ongoing. No weekend openings are planned before the trail re-opens, likely by sometime next spring.
The closure applies to the length of the trail, starting at the trailhead, and includes the route to the falls. The Forest Service expects to use the down time for trailhead maintenance.
The trails draw an estimated 45,000 visitors each year.
The Lake Serene Trail is part of Forterra’s wider campaign called the Great Northern Corridor. The conservation efforts focus on the U.S. 2 corridor between the upper Skykomish Valley and Puget Sound.
After the Lake Serene property, the nonprofit hopes to buy two others from Weyerhaeuser: Maloney Creek, near the town of Skykomish, and Windy Ridge, near Stevens Pass.
The nonprofit aims to protect areas for recreation while also aiding the economy in struggling rural communities.