8 projects picked for wildlife, recreation funding —

8 projects picked for wildlife, recreation funding

By Christopher Schwarzen; Jun 6, 2007, Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

June 6, 2007
By Christopher Schwarzen
Times Snohomish County Bureau

A boost in state money for the purchase, preservation or construction of wildlife habitat and recreational projects will help fund eight projects in Snohomish County.

Until this past year, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) had only about $50 million to distribute statewide through competitive grants for projects. But a push from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, a nonprofit that helped start the state program in 1990, encouraged state legislators to double that amount to $100 million during the next two-year budget.

As a result, at least four Snohomish County enhancement projects that otherwise would have been overlooked with a smaller pot of money will receive funding during the next two-year grant cycle. Eight projects, some already completed, will receive funds totaling nearly $2 million.

The money, varying in amounts, will be available July 1 after final approval this week from an oversight board. State legislators approved a list of 135 projects statewide, but a few tweaks will winnow that list to 132 for final approval. In some cases, projects are already finished.

That includes Edmonds, which will get grant money for purchase of the old Woodway Elementary School property. The property is being turned into a park. A parcel near Shell Creek, which will be used to preserve stream habitat, also has been bought. Neither would have been funded without the increase in state money.

"Both of our projects came in the middle of the list of approved projects," said Edmonds Parks Director Brian McIntosh. "Without the additional $50 million, we'd still be looking for funds."

Edmonds went ahead and purchased the school property last September and bought the Shell Creek property in 2005.

2007 projects

Listed below are the approved projects for Snohomish County, followed by the lead agency and the amount of state funding awarded.

Broers Organic Berry Farm, Snohomish County, $273,050.

Daleway Park Aquatic Playground, Lynnwood, $163,000.

Lewis Street Skykomish River public access, Department of Fish and Wildlife, $249,741.

Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, Phase 1, Mukilteo, $300,000.

North Lynnwood Park Aquatic Playground, Lynnwood, $176,000.

Old Woodway Elementary School acquisition, Edmonds, $500,000.

Shell Creek property, Edmonds, $100,000.

Werkhoven Dairy acquisition, Snohomish County, $143,050.

Source: Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program

"In the case of Woodway, we get the chance to build a neighborhood park in an area that's underserved, while the Shell Creek acquisition is a really nice urban-wildlife corridor," McIntosh said.

Also benefiting from the increase is the city of Lynnwood, which plans to use grant money for aquatic playgrounds at North Lynnwood and Daleway parks. Lynnwood parks planner Laurie Cowan said only the project at North Lynnwood would have received money at previous funding levels.

"We're fortunate to get both of them funded," she said. "Hopefully, they'll be completed for next summer."

City officials say they planned to build the aquatic playgrounds regardless of the state funding because park equipment at both locations was woefully outdated. But how to fund the upgrades hadn't been decided, Cowan said.

Snohomish County also will benefit from WWRP funds as it moves forward with purchasing development rights on sensitive farmland in the Tualco Valley outside Monroe.

The county already has purchased development rights on the Hoberg farm and now wants to do the same at the Broers Organic Berry Farm and the Werkhoven Dairy. Purchasing development rights preserves farmland, and it's one way the county has been working to keep enough viable farmland for the future.

"We're waiting for an appraisal at both properties, and anticipate hearing soon," said Ryan Hembree, one of the county's senior planners.

While a combined $416,000 may not be enough to purchase development rights on the farms, every little bit helps, Hembree said. Under grant terms, recipients other than state agencies must provide a match, but that often comes in the form of another grant.

And work must be completed before the state will send reimbursement from the WWRP, said Susan Zemek, a spokeswoman for the WWRP.

Now with $100 million available, proponents want to make sure that doesn't change. Joanna Grist, executive director of the nonprofit Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, said her group will be working to see what other money it can find for such enhancement projects.

"This is the first time the state has ever funded farmland preservation through the program, so it's nice to have the state step up and help out," Grist said. "Now we'll be looking at how we might increase that even more."

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com

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