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Letter: Changes Needed in White River Forest Agreement

Enumclaw City Council member Darrel Dickson says local residents ought to be provided no-cost access to the easement.

Editor's Note: As indicated by Councilman Dickson in the comments area below, the meeting tonight is open to the public but there is no public comment portion.

I am a King County tax payer. My wife and I are landowners in Enumclaw, and I am an Enumclaw City Councilman and real estate broker.

The reason I am passionate about the current contract between King County and John Hancock is because I understand the implications of this deal on our community. The way the contract is currently structured I think it is not a good deal for the residents of King County. This is my personal perspective with my background.

The contract needs to be modified between King County and Hancock to provide a guarantee that King County residents will be able to obtain access at, no costs, to these trails on 43,000 acres prior to a closing. Park levy funds are being used for this purchase. 

By getting guaranteed no cost access we could create an economic boom to our community. We need to tie our Expo Center and the Horse stalls to these wonderful trails. Having King County provide guaranteed access now prior to the deal closing is important to the future development of our community. People would be drawn to our community from the region, state, nation, and even internationally if we do this deal right.

However, once this deal closes if there are no guarantees for access we will have missed an important opportunity. Our community could become a destination and starting point for people to access the extensive trail network on the Hancock property which would create an economic boom for our community and help connect the expo center, the horse stalls, to these trails. This opportunity could help our Expo Center and Golf course become more successful. If tourists stop to get access to these trails they are more likely to shop and stay in Enumclaw. An increase in sales tax revenue would help us make needed improvements to our aging streets and other infrastructures that need capital improvements.  

However under the current structure, in my opinion, the contract is not good for the residents of Enumclaw. I recognize Enumclaw is not part of the contract. However, we are residents of King County. There should be a fair hearing on this proposed transaction. A fair hearing process has not happened. We should not assume this is a done deal until the money transfers. The big winner on this deal is the big Corporation John Hancock. They get $11 million of tax payer’s money. Hancock will continue to charge or deny access for recreational use. They also get to continue to harvest the timber, and pay very little in property taxes.

Also, an important point of discussion should take place about a needed buffer between our city limits and the forests. We need to have a conversation about how our community could be protected in the event of forest fires coming down on our city similar to what we saw last year in Ellensburg, and Cle Elum and the destruction from fires to cities close to forest. A land buffer is needed to be able to protect our community from forest fires. If trails are made wide enough for 4 horses to pass simultaneously then there could be access for trucks to put our fires. There should be ample time to have a hearing and say on these issues prior to this deal occurring.

Therefore I am for requesting King County modify the current deal to provide King County residents guaranteed access to these trails, and to also modify the deal to remove up to 3000 of the 43,000 acres closes to our city limits to create a Wild land Urban Interface boundary between us and the forests to protect our community in the event of a fire.

I appreciate the willingness of our Mayor, City Administrator and City council to discuss a letter to King County regarding the purchase of the development rights by King County from John Hancock to assure access for recreational purposes. This will happen this Friday night at the City of Enumclaw’s Council Chambers at 6:30 p.m. This is an opening meeting. There will be an opportunity to provide public comments. I urge Enumclaw residents to be involved.  Please come to the meeting and let your voices be heard.

—Darrel Dickson, Enumclaw City Council

Darrel Dickson April 19, 2013 at 06:40 PM
I have just learned that public comments may not be allowed tonight. However, the meeting is open and the public is welcome to attend and I encourage all to attend. Sincerely, Darrel Dickson

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