On August 5, 2020 the Snohomish County Council approved five projects for funding allocation with proceeds from the Snohomish County Conservation Futures Property Tax Fund for Snohomish County Parks, Town of Darrington and Forterra. The $1,153,599.36 of funding will go towards land acquisition to preserve nearly 460 acres of open space in Snohomish County.
The funded projects are:
The site is 26.42 acres and is a working farm that produces hay for livestock and local dairies. The farm has been owned and operated by the Brekhus family as a working dairy farm for 150 years. The site offers passive recreational fishing, riparian habitat, and 2,500 linear feet of shoreline including the riverbed. Mr. Brekhus and his family have retired from farming and are committed to seeing the farm remain in open space. This property preserves open space for public access and salmon restoration while also preserving trees that have been planted on the property and agricultural land in the short term (minimum 5 years). Mr. Brekhus has requested that the current agricultural lease continue while restoration is being pursued and the potential to continue agricultural production on a portion of the property, with future restoration, will be explored. Future restoration will be designed to incorporate continued public access and the shoreline and upland areas may be enhanced to support salmon recovery.
The proposed acquisition is comprised of 42.5 acres of sensitive wetlands that drain from Lake Cassidy and feed Catherine Creek, a stream that supports resident cutthroat trout, Coho salmon, and the following threatened species: Bull Trout, Winter Steelhead, and Summer Steelhead. Acquisition of this property will prevent future development and, by doing so, provide long-term protection of a significant portion of the Catherine Creek watershed. The goals of this acquisition include protection of sensitive habitat, and connectivity from the Centennial Trail to the state owned 163 Corson Natural Area preserve. This acquisition is a phased approach, with the phase two property in a later Conservation Futures grant cycle. The owner owns 97 acres that he wishes to sell to the County. The project when complete would create a 260-acre nature preserve when Phases 1 and 2 are acquired.
This project proposal will acquire up to 30 acres of property inholdings along several trail corridors in the planning stage. These trail corridors (Monroe to the south County line and Everett to Snohomish) are almost entirely held in public ownership with the exception of several privately owned inholdings. These inholdings have been identified as a high priority for acquisition as the County prepares for future design and construction phases of these vital regional trail systems. Failure to acquire inholdings in each of the trail corridors will result in the need to reroute a trail and may result in a trail not being built. The goal of this project is to identify and acquire all private inholdings by negotiating with willing landowners within these corridors. This project will provide a contiguous regional trail corridor under public ownership. These private inholdings have been identified as critical junctions necessary to move to design and construction phases. This project will bank funding for purchase of in-holding properties along the corridor as they become available.
The Tillman Farm is a 329.4 acre historic family farm and produces crops which include corn, peas, and strawberries, hay and silage for 300 head of dairy cows. The farm infrastructure includes barns, a garage, a residence, a shed, a shop, milking parlors, silos, and other infrastructure capable of supporting dairy operations. The farm has 85% prime farmland soils or soils of statewide significance, and the property includes substantial water rights, which will be secured along with the land to ensure farming is viable on the site into the future. The farm is the last of this size in the Stillaguamish River Valley. The owner and his family are retiring from agriculture and the farm is in danger of being converted into non-farm uses. The farm is zoned R5 and may well be developed if not preserved by a conservation easement. Such an easement will fairly compensate the Tillman family for the development value they would be removing, but also makes the land more affordable to the next generation of farmers if and when the family wishes to sell their farm. The conservation easement, once acquired, will extinguish 63 development rights and retain 3. Forterra NW will retain the conservation easement in perpetuity.
The project property is 94 acres in total, with 30 acres to be acquired using Conservation Futures Program funding. According to botanist Mignonne Bivin from North Cascades National Park, this site is one of the farthest west stands of quaking aspen and this ecosystem may have been more widespread before European development in Western Washington. The site historically was used by Native American tribes as a stopping off point as they moved east and west for trade over the Cascade Mountains. The site is mostly forested with wetlands, currently zoned industrial and bisects the Whitehorse Trail. This project would create a long desired opportunity to connect the Whitehorse Trail to the Whitehorse Community Park. The proposed use for the site is to develop a green minded industrial center for wood products and education, to be named the Darrington Wood Innovation Center. The project sponsors propose to set aside 30 acres of the 94 total acres for conservation and passive recreation. Once acquired, The Town will create a trail connection between the Whitehorse Trail and Whitehorse Community Park. Other linkages include a possible link to North Mountain Bike Complex and a 1 mile ride to the nearby Whitehorse Community Park. Education partnerships are also planned with Glacier Peak Institute and local schools.
Additional excess funds from prior projects (Terrace Creek Park project and Squire Creek Park Messer Addition project) were also returned to the Conservation Futures fund balance to go towards future projects.
The Snohomish County Conservation Futures Program was started in 1988 as a way to distribute Conservation Futures Property Tax Funds as authorized by RCW 84.34.230. The purpose of this funding is to acquire interests, or rights, in real property for the preservation of open space, farm and agricultural land, and timber land per SCC 4.14.010. These resources are available through the County’s authority to levy up to six and one-quarter cents per thousand dollars on all taxable property within the County for the purpose of acquiring open space.