Snohomish County uses taxpayers' money and funds from Audubon Society to purchase 664 acres for preservation

Debbie Terwilleger, a Snohomish County Parks and Recreation planner, and Ray Heller, who works for the King County Department of Natural Resources, walk along a trail on a 664-acre property recently bought by Snohomish County.
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The Lloyd family farmstead includes open space as well as wooded trails.
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By Jennifer Langston
Herald Writer

July 19, 2002

MALTBY -- When asked what makes Snohomish County's largest land purchase in recent years so valuable, parks planner Debbie Terwilleger has to think.

She's standing next to a beaver pond near the headwaters of Bear Creek, one of the most productive salmon streams in the region and a tributary of the Sammamish River.

The tea-colored water pools underneath a canopy of firs and alders, with sun barely filtering through a tangle of green branches.

The property includes 664 acres of forestland, open meadows, wetlands, peat bogs, a historic homestead site and remnants of log cabins and fences long given over to gravity.

"The thing I like the most is that you can get lost here," Terwilleger said. "To have a place where you don't have to drive east of the mountains to find this is invaluable."

With a recent $1.1 million purchase of timber rights on the land, Snohomish County has guaranteed that it will be preserved. Although the property isn't open to the public yet, eventually it will become a county park.

In a county that's growing as fast as Snohomish, the opportunities to preserve large chunks of forestland in the midst of homes and highways doesn't come around that often.

Snohomish County struck a deal two years ago to purchase the Lloyd family farmstead south of Maltby from the family that cleared and homesteaded the land in the 1800s.

It bought the land for $1.9 million, with the help of state salmon recovery grants and contributions from King County and the Audubon Society.

But the county didn't have the money to purchase the timber rights at the time. The value of the trees on the property was almost as much as the land itself. The Lloyds gave the county three years to come up with the difference.

This month, the Snohomish County Council agreed to spend $1.1 million to buy the timber rights. The money was cobbled together from county funds dedicated to conserve land, two state salmon grants and a contribution from the Clearwater Water District.

"They could have logged it, and we would have had a nice stump farm," said Mark Krandel, planning supervisor for Snohomish County Parks and Recreation. "But we were able to raise the money."

The deal also allowed the elderly members of the Lloyd family to continue living in the historic whitewashed log cabin on the property until their deaths. Two of the three siblings are still alive.

Gene Duvernoy, president of the Cascade Land Conservancy, who brokered the deal, said the farm had been in the family since before Washington statehood. The Lloyds were very concerned that the homestead not be developed, he said. They sold the property and timber rights to the county at $1 million below the assessed value.

"This has been the heart and soul of the family," he said. "This was a way you could ... provide them with some comfort in their later years and see that the farm was left to the region as such a wonderful property."

While the county is taking inventory of the trails, streams and trees on the farmstead, it won't begin planning in earnest for public use while family members still live there, Krandel said.

It's has already discovered evidence of motorcycle and off-road vehicle use on the sprawling property -- something that won't be allowed in the future.

The county will go through a public process to plan for the park, but it's likely that the streams, wetlands and bogs that feed Bear Creek will be managed primarily for their natural benefits.

Landowners and King County have collaborated for years to protect Bear Creek downstream, which flows 14 miles through rural fields, suburban back yards and the city of Redmond.

The watershed is home to six species of wild salmon and steelhead, freshwater mussels, bear, deer, pileated woodpeckers and more than 100 species of birds.

Permanently protecting the headwaters of Bear Creek -- the forests that help keep it cool and clear -- will help ensure that water flows remain stable, said Ray Heller, who works for King County's Department of Natural Resources.

Studies show that a stream starts to suffer once a watershed loses 65 percent of its forest cover and more than 10 percent of its land to pavement.

The headwaters of nearby North Creek, for example, are under the parking lot at Everett Mall, Krandel said.

"In the summertime that creek is dry and in the wintertime, because of all the impervious surfaces, the water comes through like gangbusters," Krandel said.

The forested part of the Lloyd farmstead west of Paradise Lake Road will probably be better suited for trails and public access, although the county won't make decisions about how to develop or manage the park until getting more input.

The money used to purchase the land specifies it can only be used for passive recreation such as hiking, bird watching, horseback riding or biking.

The county is also beginning to think about how to care for the trees. Much of the land was logged over the last century, and the county has a growing inventory of forested parks.

While the county has no intention of cutting any trees, it may want to thin some areas or plant a more diverse mix of species to keep the forests healthy, Terwilleger said.

"Will that mean clear-cutting? Absolutely not," she said. "But we have some big chunks of land with significant forest resources, and we want to learn how to manage them."


You can call Herald Writer Jennifer Langston at 425-339-3452
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