Green River Gorge Trail funding threatened by crisis politics
As a resident in Southeast King County and the executive director of an organization preserving land in rural southeast King County, I am very aware that when it comes to getting projects funded, southeast King County is a challenge. The area has traditionally been under funded compared the rest of King County.
Most recently, the Senate has bypassed land conservation projects despite the projects' high ranking from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The House approved funding for $50 million that would have funded the Green River Gorge/Icy Creek trail acquisition. But the Senate reduced the funding to $20 million and then set aside an additional $16 million to use to cherry pick their projects. Their reasoning was to fund development projects that would potentially fund jobs.
The acquisition of a trail easement along the Green River Gorge would have leveraged additional grant money for both acquisition and trail development. So while the Green River Gorge/Icy Creek project ranked high as a conservation project, it was completely overlooked as a potential "job creation" project. The crux of the issues is that these decisions are being made in the crisis and aren't based on sound criteria. Decisions like this often lead to a result of pet projects getting funded rather than projects that ranked highly in the careful evaluation laid out by the WWRP.
Additionally, the Middle Green River Coalition has worked with a number of groups to secure funding for research and restoration. We are currently developing a program to help secure funding to meet unmet parks development needs in our local communities using private partnerships to do the work. We will be working to create jobs in our community through land restoration and recreation development. The Green River Gorge acquisition is a critical part of this plan.
We recently received a total of $10,000 in funding to do a restoration project along Beaver Lake near Enumclaw. It is part of the Bass/Beaver/Dandy Lake Natural area that protects three lakes, numerous wetlands, and connects the lake system to the Green River Gorge. The properties in this area were acquired through a combination of King County and WWRP grants. As a result of this acquisition we were able to leverage grant funds for restoration. The project lead is working with local contractors to do the clearing of invasive species and improvement of an existing trail. Volunteers from Americorps, worked at the site to plant trees putting in hours of paid hours.
The way that the state has decided at the last minute to cherry pick through the list of projects and pass over many qualified projects has left us the potential that we may not be able to create a trail along the rim of the Green River Gorge or bring grant funding to state parks to develop the resulting trail. The Senate's proposal to fund projects using a criteria that supports politically popular, but not necessarily ranked as the best use of public funds will hurt the very fundamentals of the program and more locally our ability to preserve one of our most cherished areas, the Green River Gorge.
Please contact Sen. Pam Roach (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sen. Joe Fain (email@example.com) and tell them to support WWRP funding for our Green River Gorge.
For more information visit our website: www.mgrc.org.
Lisa Parsons is executive director of the Middle Green River Coalition.