Preserving a neighborhood

MONROE – Polly Root says she is amazed by the fresh air of her neighborhood even three years after moving in.

Dan Bates / The Herald

Charlie Root, 8, on Wednesday gazes into the tunnel of vegetation leading into the woods that surround the Sharingwood neighborhood near Monroe.

Along with houses, the Sharingwood neighborhood, about eight miles south of Monroe, has 24 acres of wildlife habitat and mature trees. The greenbelt keeps the area quiet and the air clean.

Root’s son, Charlie, 8, spends a lot of time climbing on big stumps and exploring in the greenbelt, she said.

Root, 40, said she is pleased the land will be preserved forever.

The Sharingwood neighborhood reached an agreement in late June with the Cascade Land Conservancy, a Seattle-based land trust, to permanently preserve the 24 acres from commercial logging and economic development.

“I think it’s just so exciting it came through,” Root said.

The nature preserve is precious because of its proximity to an urban area, said Leslie Batten, Cascade’s senior project associate. In Snohomish County, the group has similar conservation easement agreements for 486 acres, she said.

“It’s really close to the city of Monroe. We see a lot of development there,” Batten said.

The deal cost the Sharingwood neighborhood $35,000; $5,000 was raised from private donations, $10,000 from a neighborhood fund and $20,000 by levying each household $5 a month for the next 10 years, said Heidi Engle, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 14 years.

Dan Bates / The Herald

Polly Root and Noah Block, 2, explore an old log in the thick woods that surround Sharingwood.

About 100 people live in the 39-acre development, which has 26 buildings and operates with a cooperative agreement, called co-housing. Residents live in their own homes but share some facilities, such as a community center, and some responsibilities. For example, residents take turns maintaining a trail in the greenbelt, Engle said.

During the school year, the neighborhood invites students from local schools to the nature preserve to learn about wildlife habitat and an appreciation for nature, Engle said.

The neighborhood decided to preserve the land partly because it was the intention of the late Shirley Risser, who started the community about 20 years ago.

“Part of her vision was always to protect this,” Engle said, standing among trees in the greenbelt.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or

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