Index spared clearcut view of neighboring hill

INDEX — After securing $1.21 million to preserve Heybrook Ridge from logging, people in Index are talking about the future of the 130-acre parcel overlooking their town.

“We are thrilled,” said Sue Cross, 55, who has lived in Index since 1977.

Friends of Heybrook Ridge, a grass-roots group of residents, wants the ridge to become a popular park where students learn about the environment, people hike and artists paint stunning sceneries of surrounding mountains. The group also wants a trail to be built to connect the parcel to the nearby Wild Sky Wilderness, which was created earlier this year.

All the possibilities excite many people in Index, a small town in the Skykomish Valley off U.S. 2 in east Snohomish County.

“We are hoping that people will make Index a destination,” said Bill Cross, who is married to Sue Cross.

Cascade Land Conservancy, a Seattle-based nonprofit group, plans to facilitate the parcel’s purchase, which is expected to be complete no later than Nov. 1. W.B. Foresters in Stanwood already agreed to sell the ridge for $1.21 million.

Once the purchase is complete, Snohomish County is expected to maintain the parcel as a park. County officials will do a site assessment and work with residents to design the park, said Tom Teigen, director for the county’s parks and recreation department.

“They’ve got some plans, and we want to work with them,” Teigen said.

For now, people in Index are reflecting how far they have come.

When the logging company announced its plan to log Heybrook Ridge in 2006, residents strongly opposed it. Caroll Cochran, a longtime Index resident, gathered about 70 signatures from the town’s 150 or so residents on petitions to fight the plan.

“It made us feel good we were doing something positive for the town,” said Cochran, 61, adding she’s seen ups and downs in Index.

The town, incorporated in 1907, used to thrive on logging and mining. But it now relies on its natural beauty that attracts outdoors enthusiasts and generates revenue.

People formed Friends of Heybrook Ridge and started negotiating with W.B. Foresters. Debbie Buse, the company business manager, gave the group time to raise money to purchase the parcel.

“She was wonderful,” Sue Cross said of Buse. “She had faith in us from the beginning.”

The idea of raising more than $1 million looked like a pie in the sky at first, Cross said. But the group reached out to people and held fundraising events.

“A lot of hard work and a lot of luck,” she said.

A huge boost came when an anonymous donor pitched in $500,000. And last month, Snohomish County decided to allocate $700,000 out of its conservation fund.

The group eventually raised approximately $113,000 on its own and spent about $22,000 for the property appraisal and campaign materials, said Louise Lindgren, president of Friends of Heybrook Ridge. After the property’s purchase, the group plans to use about $30,000 to build trails in the parcel and donate the remaining money the Cascade Land Conservancy.

Logging trees in Heybrook Ridge wouldn’t have created local jobs because loggers don’t live in the town any longer, said Makena Soper, 31, who was born and raised in Index.

“Very few people will benefit from logging,” Soper said.

Last week, Index resident Bob Hubbard walked up a dirt road on Heybrook Ridge off U.S. 2. He turned around and saw snow-capped mountains around him.

The panoramic view should attract many hikers and painters, Hubbard said. He hopes that the county will create view spots in the ridge.

Hubbard wore a light blue T-shirt, which members of Friends of Heybrook Ridge made to promote their cause.

A message on the T-shirt’s back read: “May the Forest be with you.”

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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