It’s easier to keep something than to try to get it back. That was the reasoning behind the huge public outcry when word got out that Wayne Golf Course was for sale and developers were interested. With the enormous effort of our community members and our partners, Forterra successfully acquired the land on an interim basis.
We are immensely grateful to the owners of Wayne, the Richards family, the City of Bothell, King County and Washington State elected officials, and Forterra for working together on a solution. Forterra acquired the land temporarily as a way of preserving it for the public. When we have successfully funded the more than $11 million that Forterra advanced, the land will become public.
The front nine was for sale, but thanks to the Richards family who understood the legacy value of the beautiful property, and the more than 2,000 residents who rallied a passionate outcry, it was sold to Forterra instead of interested developers. One developer, after meeting with us, relinquished interest in the property because it the right thing to do for the community. An agreement was reached with the Richards family and Forterra, and the sale closed May 31, 2016.
A photo from the group meeting between golf course owners, OneBothell, Forterra, and Rod Dembowski.
Wayne Golf Course land will pass to future generations for passive recreation, education, habitat and water restoration.
The back nine was under a purchase and sale agreement with developers, but thanks to Forterra, King County and the even louder voices of the community calling for preservation of this premium open space, we were once again able to reach agreement. The sale was finalized on February 10th 2016. Again, the development group chose to do what was in the best interest of the community instead of its own short term gains. We know we speak for the community when we acknowledge our gratitude to developers who relinquished their interest in the property.
We have limited time to pay back Forterra. If we cannot get grants and other sources of funding to purchase the land from Forterra by February 2019, the non-profit organization must relinquish its ownership. That would likely result in conservation-sensitive development. We are confident, however, that we will be successful in our funding endeavor. We can do it with YOUR help! After all, it’s easier to keep something than to give it up!
Overview of acquired land
The front nine:
50 acres total, comprised of 46 acres protected from development by a conservation easement as well as a 4-acre developable area that today encompasses the club house. The conservation easement limits conversion to development but allows golf course, agriculture, and passive recreational uses.
The back nine:
39 acres total, abutting Blyth Park and the Sammamish River, and includes the historic Yellow Apple Ranch farm house and orchard, which are on the Bothell Historic Registry.
The 46 acre area outlined in yellow in the above image is protected by a conservation easement.
We all know that we live in a highly urbanized and heavily impacted watershed. Multiple studies have found the aquatic habitat within the Sammamish River corridor to be severely degraded. Protecting Wayne land from development has a positive ripple effect in terms of wildlife.
The story of the Sammamish River corridor is very similar to the story of many of our urban streams and urban rivers. We’re dealing with a watershed where more than half of the aquatic habitat has been lost. The in-stream conditions lack diversity, the channels and the substrates have been altered and are no longer suitable for spawning habitat in a lot of the areas. The native plant communities are increasingly rare, water temperatures are elevated along with nutrients and pollutants. Flows have been altered from flooding in the winters and lower water levels during the summers. All of this impacts our fish and wildlife species.
Currently, management of the property as a golf course impairs water quality in the Sammamish River. The course, which was built in the 1930s, contributes to elevated water temperature, turbidity, and nutrient loading that are limiting factors on the health of the ecosystem as well as on salmon recovery efforts within this watershed.
In its Final Report of 2002 King County’s Sammamish River Corridor Action Plan states “conditions in the Sammamish River Corridor are severely degraded and have resulted in a decline in many fish and wildlife populations. Aquatic habitat has been reduced by more than half … A total of seven salmon species are known to be present in the north Lake Washington watershed, and of those, two are listed as threatened (chinook, bull trout), one has been petitioned for listing as endangered (kokanee), three are considered depressed by WDFW (coho [listed as a candidate specied under ESA], steelhead, and sockeye).”
The very rare Lake Sammamish kokanee uses the Lake Sammamish watershed for all of its life cycle. The decline of this species has been attributed in part to altered storm water flows and dissolved oxygen levels.
Acquiring the Wayne Golf Course for the purposes of habitat protection and restoration would contribute significantly to the Water Resource Inventory Area for Lake Washington, Cedar and Sammamish Rivers (WRIA 8) and Puget Sound salmon and ecosystem recovery objectives. The property includes 4,800 feet of riverbank, representing more than 4 percent of the length of the Sammamish River, which flows for 14 miles from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington.
Larry Phillips, Chair of WRIA 8 Salmon Recovery Council stated: “Acquisition of the Wayne Golf Course is a rare opportunity to protect substantial acreage in a primarily urban area, and protection would provide a significant opportunity to implement the restoration priorities identified in the WRIA 8 Plan on a large scale.” According to the WRIA 8 salmon recovery strategy, “protecting and restoring forest cover, riparian, buffers, wetlands, and creek mouths” is a Tier 1 action along the Sammamish River, which would help improve water quality for salmonid species.
This wetlands map identifies the stream corridor and shoreline areas which make this a compelling salmonid restoration priority. Converting the course to public land would allow restoration activities.
Mammals present today in the Sammamish River Corridor include those species that have adapted to human development, such as deer, beavers, mountain beavers, nutrias, raccoons, opossums, skunks, river otters, coyotes, brown rabbits (eastern cottontail), shrews, mice and voles.
Beavers are more likely to be seen in the shallower part of the river near the Park at Bothell Landing, but the other animals can be viewed near the golf course property. The increased development of the Waynita Drive area (more than 250 lots in the last few years) has reduced the habitat for wildlife. Deer are now regularly visit the golf course at dawn. The golf course and Blyth Park, in combination with the Burke Gilman and Sammamish River trails, offer a respite from the urbanization of Bothell. It is incumbent upon us to preserve this precious resource to assure that wildlife and humans can coexist in this ecosystem.
The health and viability of salmon in the Sammamish River system ultimately contributes to the viability of Puget Sound’s rapidly dwindling Orca population. These southern resident killer whales are also listed as endangered.
King County has designated several species as species of local importance that may appear including red-tailed hawk, osprey, great blue heron, band-tailed pigeon, harlequin duck, northern goshawk, merlin, peregrine falcon, Vaux’s swift, pileated woodpecker, olive-sided flycatcher and purple martin.
The photos below were taken by a local resident on Wayne Golf Course. Winter and spring are prime times for bird watching on the Sammamish. Canada geese and mallard ducks are regular inhabitants. In winter, cormorants, mergansers, and widgeons can be spotted. A pair of bald eagles raises offspring every year in a tree on Riverbend Drive and feeds from the Wayne back nine area. Herons feed in the river all year-round. These animals are directly affected by water quality and the amount of food available.
Jodie Galvan, OneBothell board member and wildlife biologist commented, “It’s very rare that you have 89 acres of open space in an urban area along with 4,800 feet of river frontage on a property that been identified in multiple studies as a prime location to improve stream and riparian conditions. You also have an active community interested in protecting the property, support from the county, support from Olympia, and perhaps rarest, sellers that will actually sit down at the table with you and talk to you about the future of the property.”
Commitment of improving the water quality and riparian zones along the Sammamish River Corridor could inspire and encourage other cities on the river to follow suit. We have a wonderful opportunity to restore the ecology of the area and establish Bothell as a regional leader in stewardship of the Sammamish River.
Bothell has a shortfall of 675.5 acres of core park land to meet the recommended national standards, according to the 2014 Parks and Recreation Guidelines (Parks, Recreation & Open Space Action Program January 24 2014). Not only has the city’s population increased from 30,609 to 40,500 (32 percent) in just eight years, but Washington state’s population is expected to increase 24 percent by the year 2040. Finding ways to interact with nature will become more and more challenging for urbanites, and wildlife will be put at even greater risk by loss and fragmentation of critical habitat. We have an opportunity right now make a real difference for future generations!
Despite Bothell’s stated goal of acquiring Wayne Golf Course land as early as 1989, the city didn’t make it a priority when it went up for sale in 2013-14. Understanding the city’s limited financial resources and after much engagement from the community, Forterra successfully acquired the land as an interim measure while funds are secured for its public acquisition. Now we have a unique opportunity to create a signature park for the rapidly growing community of Bothell and surrounding areas. Because it’s adjacent to Blyth park, the two properties should be considered one so we can create an iconic park for the public.
The image above shows where Blyth Park (left) meets the back nine of Wayne.
Wayne Golf Course alone “possesses natural resources, recreational, scenic, open space, water resource, and recreational value of great importance to the people of Bothell, the people of King County, and the people of the State of Washington.” (Conservation Easement Recitals section B). Imagine the significance of a regional park that combined the 40.8 acres of Blyth with the 89 acres of Wayne.
Imagine a recreational corridor up located in the heart of Bothell connecting three trails—the Burke-Gilman, Sammamish River, and Tolt Pipeline. Imagine hiking through the interconnected woods of Blyth and Wayne, launching a kayak or paddleboard from an accessible river site, visiting an interpretive center to better appreciate the wondrous ecosystem, viewing wildlife from observation areas, catching glimpses of migrating salmon, enjoying vistas of meadows and forested areas, observing waterfowl and raptors, or just strolling through a peaceful haven free from city noises and urban structures. With restrooms, picnic areas and a play area for children already at Blyth, coupled with the immense opportunities for interacting with nature afforded by Wayne land, we could create a signature park of nearly 130 acres. What an amazing legacy this would be.
The area northeast of Seattle where Bothell is located is already a hub of beloved trails. Three of them converge within several hundred feet of each other near the junction of Blyth Park, Wayne Golf Course, and the Sammamish River.
The Burke-Gilman trail is 19.8 miles long and originates in at Golden Gardens in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. It ends in Bothell at Blyth Park. The Sammamish River Trail starts across the river at a trestle bridge abutting Blyth Park and extends 10.9 miles to Marymoor Park in Redmond. The Tolt Pipeline runs on the boundary of Blyth Park and Wayne Golf Course for 14 miles between Bothell and Duvall Park. A fantastic opportunity is presenting itself with the development of the Wayne land to link these three trails for seamless recreational possibilities.
The end of the Tolt Pipeline Trail at the the Wayne Golf Course Property
The Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails both follow old railroad lines and are beloved by urban dwellers who walk, run, skate, or cycle the easy grade of less than three-percent. Both trails are heavily used by all ages of people year-round. The Tolt Pipeline trail is utilized mostly by rigorous athletes and hardy outdoors-people who hike or mountain bike its steep terrain and rugged slopes. Access to the Tolt can be problematic because of its location and disruptions with the occasional highway or river.
The map above was generation using TrailLink.com
Now, with the development of Wayne as a passive recreation area, the opportunity of three trails being conjoined is an exciting possibility. Conceivably, a person could travel by foot- or pedal-power from Ballard to Duvall with little obstruction. In addition to these three major trails, St. Edward State Park and Big Finn Hill Park in Kenmore with their combined 10 mile loop trail, and O.O. Denny Park in Kirkland with another six miles of trail, are close enough to the Tolt Pipeline Trail to further expand the opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a backcountry recreational feel within an urban setting.
King County has one of the best trail systems in the nation. Increasing connectivity by opening of the boundary between Wayne land and Blyth park would wrap the Tolt Pipeline into the system. That would be another feather in King County’s cap.
As restoration work on the Sammamish River at Wayne gets underway, an onsite center could provide a crucial link to education for visitors of all ages. The front nine club house area or the area on back nine of the old Yellow Apple Ranch, could be repurposed for a interpretive center to educate and enhance understanding of the river’s role in a healthy environment.
View of the Yellow Apple Ranch from the Wayne Golf Course back nine.
Environmental education at onsite learning centers brings immediacy to long-range plans. Trails through the restoration area could become a conduit for the public to learn about fish and wildlife survival. What better way to learn about the history of the river, its importance as habitat for fish and wildlife, and the ecological services the wetlands provide such as water purification, and flood and erosion control, than on the site of a recreation and restoration project?
The center could provide food services, public restrooms, a classroom or auditorium, and library or bookstore. Retail space could support recreational activities like boating. Hands-on educational activities related to the site could be made available for individuals and classrooms, as well as displays of remote video feeds of wildlife, such as migrating salmon and the heron rookery in Kenmore. Labs could provide students with opportunities to analyze samples collected on site. It could facilitate cultural exchanges, environmental research, and serve as a space for non-profits to meet or house an art gallery.
There’s enough unrestricted land for us to achieve all this in harmony with the river and open space. It really comes down to what the city decides informed by the community support.
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