A Brief WWRP Tour of WA

July 8, 2019

By Christine Mahler, WWRC Executive Director

I always enjoy my job—I get to help make recreation and conservation projects across the state possible! What is not to like about that?

But there are some times when I LOVE my job. Times when I get to get out of downtown Seattle and visit projects in person. Times when I get to see the impact of these projects on the communities and ecosystems around them. During those times, I like to step back and remind myself that this is why I do what I do in Seattle and Olympia.

In June, I got the chance to visit several projects that really represent the diversity of the WWRP. Let me take you on a mini-tour!

In early June, our board visited the construction site for the Kiwanis Methow Park in South Wenatchee. This community is a vibrant part of town where members are proud of their Mexican heritage—a heritage they didn’t see reflected in the landscapes around them. Until Teresa Zepeda-Sosa and Teresa Bendito heard about plans to update their local park, that is! They called on leading members of the community to get involved—to provide input and make this park their own. Working with the city and Trust for Public Land, this group—the Parque Padrinos (godparents of the park)—developed a culturally-relevant plan for the park. One that includes a soccer field and shaded play equipment for the kids, a gathering place and kiosko for the families to celebrate everything from barbeques to quinceañeras. I cannot wait to see this park when it opens this fall—and to honor Teresa for her leadership as a Forward Award Honoree at our breakfast in September! I hope you’ll join us!

Next, I headed to Enumclaw, where King County broke ground on a new section of trail and a bridge that will continue the Foothills Trail. This segment will bring the trail from Pierce County over the White River into King County—and eventually work its way up to join the Palouse to Cascades Trail, if advocates have their say! The WWRP has helped fund several segments of the Foothills Trail, which currently runs from Puyallup to Buckley, covering 25 miles. I should note, however, that funding for the bridge isn’t fully secured and depends on the passage of King County’s 2020-2025 Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Levy on August 6.

Finally, our whole Coalition team—including two new members!—traveled down to Merrill Lake on the South side of Mount St Helens. We were excited to celebrate the completion of years of work by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (and several WWRP grants!) to conserve 1400 acres of old growth forest, lava beds, waterfalls, and critical habitat for elk, bald eagle, steelhead, Coho and Chinook salmon, and native plant communities. It’ll also provide recreational access for hunters, anglers, hikers, and more. As one young boy at the celebration noted: I want to come here for my birthday! And now, he can.

From parks to trails to pristine habitat, our state has it all! We are incredibly lucky to live in a place where our outdoors are so valued. Our people love this land and they move their elected officials to prioritize outdoor recreation and conservation. Democracy in action—it really can be a beautiful thing!

But, just because we’ve had success in the past, don’t think our work is done! There are still communities without a safe place for their kids to play. Farms under threat of conversion. Streams and wildlife corridors that may not survive the current boom along I5 or the ever-present threats of the changing climate.

The WWRP remains the premier recreation and conservation funding tool in Washington—thanks to YOU. Thanks to your advocacy. Thanks to your partnership. Thanks to your financial support.

I hope we can continue to count on you today and into the future!