By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
When all is said and done this year, the Sky Valley will have been awarded more than $1 million in land conservation grant funds in 2013 through Snohomish County’s Conservation Futures program.
The most recent funding, approved by the Snohomish County Council in September, will have a significant impact on the city of Sultan, which has been awarded $324,600 to be used for property acquisition near the Sultan River.
The money will be used to acquire more than 4-1/2 acres of land which the city has slated to become Sultan River Nature Trails, a trail system that will eventually connect Osprey Park to River Park. The property will be secured through both purchase and long-term lease.
“This is a great project, offering citizens and visitors the opportunity to explore a trail along the river from one city park to another,” said Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick in a press release.
The funds will be used to purchase two parcels located adjacent to River Park, along with a 100-foot strip of riverfront property located next to Osprey Park. A long-term lease was negotiated with the Washington State Department of Transportation, which owns the property, for two approximately 10-foot wide lengths of land that will connect the two areas being purchased.
One trail will run along the Sultan River and the other will be situated approximately 30 feet inland from the river.
In addition to developing the trails, the city intends to add a pedestrian bridge, observation decks, park benches and tables, as well as interpretive signs. The trails will be constructed as an extension of the Snohomish County Public Utility District re-channelization project, using remaining funds secured through an agreement with the PUD.
The goal of the Osprey Park re-channelization project was to increase and enhance the area’s salmon habitat, as the Sultan River is a spawning area for Chinook, Coho, steelhead and pink salmon. The new trail system will complement the new habitat and increase pedestrian accessibility to the area.
Sultan resident Susie Hollenbeck was instrumental in helping the city of Sultan with the Conservation Futures grant application.
“I am so excited that so much otherwise-unusable land can be used for recreation here in the Sky Valley,” said Hollenbeck. “The new streambeds and trails will so enhance the ability to enjoy our community even more.”
Snohomish County Council also approved Snohomish County Parks and Recreation’s funding proposal for the purchase of 25 acres in Steelhead County Park, located just south of Sultan. Parks will receive $190,000 for the purpose. Steelhead Park will be geared toward overnight camping and fishing.
The Conservation Futures Program was established by the Snohomish County Council in 1988 as a method of preserving open space, agricultural land, farming areas and timberland. One of the goals of the program is to conserve property designated for public use and enjoyment. Conservation projects are presented by different agencies to the Conservation Futures Advisory Board, and the board then makes recommendations to Snohomish County Council.
Council then makes a final determination as to which projects receive funding.
Through a recent bond sale, the county had $24.9 million available and in May, the Conservation Futures Board received 30 applications requesting a total of $34 million for different projects throughout the county. Presentations were given at the end of August, and the County Council gave final approval on Sept. 11. A total of $24.8 million was awarded for the purpose of land conservation.
Conservation Futures grant money awarded to the Sky Valley earlier this year included $299,000 to acquire property at Heybrook Ridge County Park and $250,000 to purchase a section of timber-rich forest located near Gold Bar in the Wallace River Conservation Area.
“We are very grateful to the Snohomish County Futures Advisory Board, Snohomish County Executive, John Lovick, Snohomish County Council and especially Councilmember Da