A Big Year for Open Space in the Puget Sound

2014 Open Space Success Abound!

At our recent ROSS Project Leadership Team meeting we asked our participating partners what the most important developments in open space have been for their organizations in 2014 and what they are looking forward to in 2015. We were excited and inspired by the great strides that have been made to protect and enhance open space in the Central Puget Sound and beyond over the last year. We know that the efforts mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg for these organizations and the region. While there is much more work to do to ensure and protect open space, we are delighted to celebrate these great achievements and look towards the future. Join us!

Forterra, Skip Swenson, Managing Director

Forterra and partners conserved over 3200 acres in 2014.  A highlight was continued progress on the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project near Port Gamble; in 2014, 900 acres were protected, including 1.5 miles of shoreline.  Nearly 7000 acres will be conserved upon completion of this multi-year initiative.

We also continued to deepen our work in communities throughout the central Puget Sound region this year.  Notably, in our award-winning Communities Connectors partnership in Tukwila brought together a diverse collection of community members to help shape the forthcoming comprehensive planning process.  We will be replicating this community liaison model in other cities in 2015.

Finally, we launched a Great Northern Corridor initiative spanning from Everett to Stevens pass.  The long-term goal of this effort is a combination of community-building, economic development, conservation, and recreation.  Efforts this year largely focused on planning near Everett Station and conservation & recreation planning in the vicinity of Skykomish.  This work should dovetail with ROSS’ planned 2015 work in the Snohomish River basin. We have a lot more in the works and look forward to sharing more in the New Year.

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Christie True, Director

In addition to our extensive Green Duwamish Watershed Strategy work we are leading with the ROSS, we are also working on Farm, Fish, and Flood work in the Snoqualmie Valley. As part of the process we are grappling with competing interests, but it’s going very well and we anticipate this work wrapping up soon. We have a number of other significant projects underway, including a System Wide Improvement Framework in the Lower Green River valley, a new initiative aimed at growing our local food economy and increasing local food access (our “Kitchen Cabinet” will be coming up with recommendations in January), and working in the Skykomish with Forterra on the Stevens Pass Greenway. And these are just of few of our key initiatives - we have a busy and exciting 2015 in front of us!

National Park Service | Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program, Sue Abbott, Community Planner

In 2014 our partnership program provided planning assistance to more than 20 Pacific Northwest community projects. While outside the ROSS geography, we’re excited to share that the Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network won the 2014 American Planning Association’s National Planning Excellence Award for a Grassroots Initiative for their Vision Plan focused on the Mid-Columbia Region.

Ridges to Rivers partners are credited with introducing and advancing an important Open Space dialog in the Tri Cities area. Their plan was followed with an “Our County Our Future” campaign and a ballot initiative this November to win an advisory vote for Benton County Commissioners. The initiative was endorsed by the Tri-City Herald and supported by The Trust for Public Land. It didn’t pass this year, but garnered 47.5% of the vote--boding well for future initiatives and providing inspiration to keep the movement going.

Puget Sound Regional Council, Ben Bakkenta, Program Manager

While I’ll primarily focus on things coming up, I’ll make an exception for our Building Cities in the Rain work, where we are collaborating with the Department of Commerce and other stakeholders to look at stormwater management and how it impacts open space and urban areas. This is a strong group to be looking at this as a policy issue and we’ll be excited to share our learnings.

PSRC is also in the pre-scoping phase for a major update to VISION 2040. While local jurisdictions are currently in the process of updating comprehensive plans and the required next update isn’t until 2023, it is important for us to get out ahead and coordinate local planning. We are looking to update VISION 2040 in the 2018-2020 timeframe.  A key part of this update will be to evaluate our regional growth strategy, and looking at changes in both urban and unincorporated parts of the region. ROSS landscape valuations and the regional goals it develops should provide a valuable tool in the analysis. This could really help us look at how to address open space in and out of the Urban Growth Area. We are interested to learn more about the timing of these projects and how to tap into them strategically.

Pierce County, Ryan Dicks, Sustainability Manager

We’ve had a tremendous year working with the ROSS and the Russell Family Foundation’s Puyallup Watershed Initiative. Through the PWI’s Communities of Interest, we have done major planning and that work is now being funded Forterra is under contract to conserve the 100+ acre Matlock farm, prime farmland in the Puyallup River Valley, by the end of the year, which was a Conservation Futures project from 2 years ago.

Pierce County’s Floodplains by Design proposal was also ranked #2 in the state and may be funded up to $20 million. The county made a real effort to work with a diverse group of stakeholders, including floodplains groups, agriculture representatives and tribes to look at the whole Puyallup system. Being so highly ranked by the Department of Ecology shows that the state values this holistic approach and it’s a gamechanger to how we do our work.


Many thanks to all of our partners who work so hard to conserve and enhance open space and the benefits it provides throughout the region. We look forward to sharing the successes of all our partners over coming months.


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