The City of Issaquah – in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and King County – announced today the protection of 46 acres of forested hillsides on Cougar Mountain.
The property will serve as a gateway to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park and Harvey Manning Park from Issaquah’s valley floor and connects to a “green necklace” of other city parks, trails and open spaces; the master-planned Talus community; and a major transit center.
“No one agency or person could have done this alone,” said Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly. “Thanks to strong partnerships; an engaged community; and our courageous and forward-thinking City Councilmembers, this historic purchase will preserve an important connection between our urban valley floor and the Issaquah Alps.”
Commonly called Bergsma, the land located on the northeast corner of Cougar Mountain between Newport Way Northwest and Talus had long been proposed for residential development – most recently as 57 homes. The acreage is home to diverse wildlife, old growth trees and waterways that feed salmon-bearing streams.
Over the last 18 months, a new grassroots conservation group, “Save Cougar Mountain,” formed and passionately advocated at the local and county level to amplify the energy and the voices of support across the region for this aspirational acquisition.
This acquisition helps realize two strategic projects for Issaquah as outlined in its 2018 Parks Strategic Plan – hillside acquisitions and a trail connection from Talus to Tibbetts Valley Park. Moreover, the acquisition advances King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Land Conservation Initiative by protecting one of the last remaining private inholdings on Cougar Mountain, and expanding King County’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
“Thanks to bold action by our partners, forestland that was destined to become a subdivision is now a permanently protected gateway to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This is the model for successful land conservation: Cities, nonprofits, and community organizations joining forces with King County serving as the catalyst. We need to replicate this success throughout the region to protect the last remaining, most vital greenspaces before they are lost forever."
Starting in December 2017, the City of Issaquah partnered with The Trust for Public Land to explore options for the purchase of all – or a portion – of the site. Ultimately, Issaquah purchased the eastern-most 33.5 acres for $10.6 million. Earlier this year, King County awarded Issaquah $5.3 million in Conservation Future Funds toward the acquisition. That award, along with other grants applied for next year, is estimated to reduce Issaquah’s ultimate cost to $3.8 million. To decrease the city’s upfront costs, The Trust for Public Land provided $3 million to Issaquah on an interest-free basis until Dec. 31, 2019.
"This newly protected land will make Washington's great outdoors more accessible and easier to reach for folks across our state,” said David Patton, Northwest Area Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We're proud to have played a part in making this a reality and are thankful to the exceptional work of our partners."
Meanwhile, King County purchased the western-most 12.5 acres, which adjoins the existing county-owned Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, for $355,000.
Several other partners supported this remarkable acquisition effort, including Save Cougar Mountain, Mountain to Sound Greenway, Issaquah Alps Trails Club and Washington Trails Association.