Vote yes for continued progress at our parks

For The Beachcomber

When I first moved to the island not so very long ago, the state was still clear-cutting timber in Island Center Forest; Maury Island Marine Park was a sea of scotch broom, and a controversy was stirring over a place called the “Lonestar Mine.” The name would become Glacier Northwest, then CalPortland — but now it’s a King County park.

What a difference a couple decades makes.

King County Parks is to be congratulated for their excellent work on Vashon and Maury since the previous park levy was passed. They deserve our vote of confidence, and they deserve a yes vote on Proposition 1 on your Aug. 6 ballot to renew the park levy.

Have you hiked around Island Center Forest lately? Have you seen the trail improvements, the signs and the beautiful new picnic shelter at the 188th Street trailhead? Have you seen the largest weed removal project in island history unfolding at the Maury Island Marine Park? The progress is particularly lovely to view from the overlook across the street from the Swallow’s Nest cottages — a transformed landscape, the shining waters of the East Passage and Mount Rainier dominating the skyline.

King County Parks is working hard for you. And they are delivering to you a remarkable value.

It costs $5 to buy a one-day pass to your national forests. A one-day pass for a state park is $10. Getting into Mount Rainier National Park will set you back $15. King County parks — right here on the island — are well cared for, offer diverse activities and opportunities and have no entry or parking fees.

The park levy is obviously not free, but it’s less than $5 per month for a family owning a home worth $300,000. And it’s certainly worth it. A day hike at Mount Rainier would cost you the entry fee, gas and ferry fare. Or you could explore the Glacier trails with Mount Rainier just over your shoulder, as often as you like. For islanders, it is literally just down the street.

But our parks are not only about trails and views. King County has tapped into our deep well of local expertise to bring modern forest practices to our parks. The days of fir plantations and clear-cuts are over. The county has demonstrated that thinning and planting with a variety of trees and shrubs can create more food and shelter for wildlife. Diverse forests are more resistant to climate change and provide sustainably-harvested wood for local craftsmen and builders.

You can’t see it, but the island’s aquifer — our island’s water supply — is better off, too. Since 2005, King County has partnered with the land trust to protect and restore habitat along Judd Creek, where the soils are best for aquifer recharge.

The renewed levy will also include funds for key additions to existing parks, including new trailheads like the gateway to Island Center Forest. Ideas in the works include creating a trail connection from Dockton Park and the Glacier site to the Maury Island Marine Park. The county has greatly increased access to our beaches as well, with new parks like Raab’s Lagoon. Expect more trailheads that lead to the beach — maybe even near your home — but only if you vote yes.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that the presence of trees actually lowers rates of heart and respiratory diseases. We are all healthier and happier when we have these green places to hike, run, bike, ride horses, walk dogs, picnic or just hang out.

So please join me in voting yes for our parks, for the health of our community and for generations to come. More information is at www.yesforourparks.com.

— Tom Dean is the executive director of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust.

Ballots are due Aug. 6. For more information, see www.kingcounty.gov/elections.

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