Collaboration in Civic Spheres

North Creek Forest conservation gets big boost from Bothell

by November 14th, 2011

A community-driven and grant-funded effort to preserve a forest for recreation, conservation and environmental learning in the heart of suburban Puget Sound has received a big boost with the City of Bothell okaying a purchase from the Boy Scouts of America for 35 acres of the North Creek Forest, straddling the border of King and Snohomish counties on the side of Maywood Hill just west of Interstate 405. The sylvan swath is within walking distance of 9,000 students at eight different schools, including the University of Washington-Bothell, Cascadia Community College, and public and private elementary, junior high, and high schools.

North Creek Forest includes another 29 acres held by other owners, which conservationists also hope can be acquired, and is home to 34 nesting bird and nine mammal species, nine wetlands, seven streams and an uplands coniferous forest. Pending an environmental assessment of the property to be completed by December 15, and with a land sale closing deadline of December 31, the initial purchase can now proceed following the unanimous approval of Agenda Bill 11-210 last week by the Bothell City Council at a regularly scheduled meeting.

The bill authorizes the city to complete a $450,000 purchase and sale agreement with the Boy Scouts plus $10,351 in closing and acquisition costs for 35.66 acres comprising the northern portion of North Creek Forest. The land buy is funded by a series of grants the city was awarded with much of the legwork done by two local groups, Friends of North Creek Forest, formed only last February, and the longer-standing Help Our Woods. Awarded to the city were a Snohomish County Conservation Futures grant of $200,000, a Washington State Department of Commerce grant of $193,987, a King County Conservation Futures grant of $33,182, and another $33,182 from the King County Proposition 2 Park Expansion Levy.

Biodiversity on display in North Creek Forest/Friends of North Creek Forest

“We are all kind of almost shocked by how quickly doors have opened. We’re very surprised and pleased,” said retired electrician Jim Freese, a North Seattle native and Bothell resident since 1978 who is the volunteer Interim Executive Director of Friends of North Creek Forest. “The key to it seemed to be telling the forest’s story” including “the dream of preserving an outdoor forest laboratory for 9,000 students within walking distance. You couldn’t get that without an urban setting, yet at the same time it’s so very rare to find a resource like this within an urban environment. The geography is the allure,” Freese added.

The forest already enjoys frequent use by students and environmental stewards. Restoration work is underway to remove invasive plant species and preserve native species. Water from forest streams and “seeps” feed directly into North Creek, below the forest, where students release salmon every year. According to Freese, faculty at nearby UW-Bothell have discussed conducting a baseline study of the entire forest, inventorying trees, plants, wetlands, streams, groundwater, and other assets, so that it can be monitored over generations to measure the effects of conservation work and other factors which influence an environment’s sustainability.

Educators are envisioning a K-16 curriculum which uses the forest as a teaching laboratory, starting with the basics for younger students and progressing to a level encouraging graduate studies for those inclined, Freese said. In addition to UW-Bothell and Cascade Community College, the school is close to Maywood Elementary, Heritage Christian School, St. Brendan’s, Canyon Park Junior High School, Bothell High School, and Woodinville Montessori.

Public Data Ferret’s Parks and Recreation archive

Bird species identified in the forest include species which are uncommon or rare in urban settings, such as song sparrow, dark-eyed junco, northern harrier, osprey, Peregrine falcon, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, short-eared owl, common snipe and band-tailed pigeon. Overall, 34 nesting species have been identified in the forest along with numerous other more common migratory species.

Pending Congressional approval of a Land and Water Grant package would include $109,000 targeted for another North Creek Forest parcel of six acres; that money would be paired with a matching amount from remaining King County Conservation grant funds already secured, and the purchase could come in spring 2012. Three more parcels comprising the remaining 23 of North Creek Forest’s 64 acres are held by two property owners, and volunteers are hoping they can attract funding and negotiate purchases to complete the conservation plan, Freese said. Most of the current purchase acreage is in Snohomish County. All of the forest’s remaining parcels are in King County.

North Creek Forest in Bothell straddles the King-Snohomish county line/Friends of North Creek Forest

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