Fennel Creek Committee struggles with ball fields, trails and land development

Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The Fennel Creek Advisory Committee learned July 21 how often the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.

The committee was in the process of settling on a master plan for 333 acres of land, known as the U-8, which was supposed to be added to Bonney Lake's urban growth area (UGA).

The problem came when the principal land owner, Scott Corliss, rejected the plan in a meeting July 20. Corliss disagreed with the plan's intended use of the property and a request for funds to set up a stewardship grant to oversee the environmentally sensitive portion of the land.

"We need parks and fields and places for kids to play," Corliss said. "They were talking about scrunching 255 homes on 55 acres, leaving the entire valley untouched with no recreation opportunities at all except for a trail going through the valley."

A member of the advisory committee, Ryan Dicks, who is the Pierce County conservation director for the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC), a nonprofit environmental group, had earlier brought a $2 million proposal to the committee to restore Fennel Creek and for the CLC to act as steward over the property.

Dicks stated he had asked Peter Pieterbowen, a steward for CLC, to put together a stewardship restoration report.

"He did it based on the Foster Wheeler (environmental) report," Dicks said. "It came in at just over $2 million. We came back to the committee and said this is just a number. This is what it could cost to contract the labor. We never said Corliss would be on the hook for the whole thing. What we were looking for was money from Pierce County, Corliss and Bonney Lake to come up with a strategy."

Of the 333 acres in question, Scott Corliss, his father Harry and Michael Quigg own about 250 acres.

"It's so ludicrous," Corliss said. "I told them no and when they want to talk sensibly to come back. Ryan (Dicks) said he needed $2.2 million for Cascade Land Conservancy to restore the land. The Stream Team came to me and said for $15,000 they could rebuild a large section of it."

The proposal would grant CLC a conservation easement on the property. The CLC would monitor appropriate use of the property. According to Dicks, the money would be used to restore Fennel Creek.

The proposal caused concern not only with Corliss, but on the advisory committee.

"I wasn't for Ryan's proposal," committee member Marian Betzer said. "I was the one member that said I can't support this. But there was no warning about Scott (Corliss) asking for ball fields. I thought things were going well. What we're concerned about is Scott likes to develop every last parcel of his land. My proposal has been for public acquisition."

While the advisory committee has run up against some problems, the members continue to believe a solution for use of the land can be found.

"There was a monkey wrench thrown into the plans," said Hugh Taylor, County Council staff member. "The principal property owner (Corliss) wants provisions made for ball fields. What has ended up happening now, the committee will ask the County Council to move the planning process to next year's Comprehensive Plan Amendment cycle."

The committee will meet again in September and begin working on a proposal to add ball fields to the site, Taylor said.

"Collaboration only works when you come up with a win-win solution," said Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney, who was instrumental in forming the advisory committee. "I'm much happier going into next year knowing what everyone wants. We have great needs for active recreation in the Bonney Lake area. There is some concern over the soil, but I think we can find a way to deal with that. This is private land and the desire of the land owner needs to be a priority."

The U-8 land was added to Bonney Lake's urban growth area by the County Council Nov. 18, 2003, along with four other parcels that added up to 496 acres. The UGA amendments would have allowed Bonney Lake to eventually annex the land.

The amendments were appeal-ed by 1000 Friends of Washington, an urban growth watchdog group, and the state's Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

The council voted on June 8 to rescind the five UGA amendments.

The Fennel Creek Advisory Committee was set up to work out a solution for appropriate use of the U-8 parcel, which is considered an environmentally sensitive area because Fennel Creek flows along its border.

The council intends to roll the U-8 portion back into Bonney Lake's UGA after the committee decides on a plan for proper protection and use of the area.

"The Corliss family is willing to help out," Corliss said. "This has nothing to do with homes or money. This has to do with parks and recreation, and I'm not being punished for having a nice piece of property. I said to Ryan (Dicks), Bonney Lake is full of starter homes for young families with little kids. These kids need a place to play."

The members of the advisory committee are Bonney Lake Planning Director Bob Leedy, Carl Halsan, Jim Clifford, Allen Zulauf, Dicks and Betzer.

Dennis Box can be reached at

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