A new community advocacy group is forming in Enumclaw, and will be meeting with a top King County official this weekend.
King County has seven Community Service Areas, or CSAs: the Snoqualmie Valley Area and Bear Creek/Sammamish Area up north, the Four Creeks/Tiger Mountain Area, the Greater Maple Valley/Cedar River area in the middle of the county, the western Vashon/Maury Island area and various pockets of unincorporated King County land in West Seattle, and finally, the Southeast King County area, which serves primarily services Enumclaw, Black Diamond, southern Covington and Maple Valley, and east Auburn.
Each CSA has a designated liaison that helps community groups connect directly with King County’s Director of Local Services John Taylor, as well as each area’s representative on the County Council; the Southeast King County liaison is Marissa Alegria.
“We are looking forward to working with [the Enumclaw Plateau Community Association,” Alegria wrote in an email. “Community partners like EPCA are vitally important to the work of Local Services as we find ways to meet the unique needs of those who live, work, and play in unincorporated areas.”
The Department of Local Services is the merging of the county’s Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Permitting and Review to “improve how we provide direct and contracted services, including roads, public safety, clean water, and access to opportunity” in unincorporated areas, county Executive Dow Constantine wrote in a press release January 2018.
The departments fully merged at the start of 2019, and in turn, spurred on the creation of EPCA, said Bob Meeks, who will be heading the group at least until its nonprofit status is cemented and a legal board of directors and president put in place.
“King County is encouraging districts to have a unified voice in matters,” Meeks said. “It’s going to be a vehicle or a platform to give people a voice about issues that affect their daily lives.”
Historically, the relationship between unincorporated King County residents this far south and the county government hasn’t been the best, Meeks said.
Although he attributes this to the fact that the Plateau lacks economic strength and a large population, Bernie McKinney said the issues run deeper than that.
McKinney plans to be an adviser for EPCA, like how he’s an adviser for the King County Conservation District. He’s also a former president, and now vice president, of the Green River Coalition, a group that lobbies for local environmental protection and conservation.
Part of the cause of the poor relationship between southeast unincorporated county residents and the county government is because residents can be conservative, insular, and independent, not wishing for government involvement, McKinney said. But at the same time, the county — especially its former Department of Environmental Permitting and Review — could occasionally be overbearing, further exacerbating issues residents had with their local government.
“The relationship between the county and the landowners have been really shaky forever,” McKinney said. “This is an attempt to improve that communication and let them know there are programs that can actually help them with their land use, some of them even at no cost.”
Giving the county some direction is exactly why EPCA is meeting with John Taylor himself from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19 at the city’s Senior Center/Community Center at 1350 Cole Street.
EPCA hopes various members of the public will attend the meeting to let Taylor know what they hope his department can bring to — or in one case, take away from — the area.
Several conservation groups, including the Green River Coalition and the Friends of Bass Lake, oppose the opening of a recycling center near the state Route 169/Franklin Road intersection outside Enumclaw, claiming the center will negatively impact the Bass Lake complex and the Green River Gorge.
While Ron Shear, the owner of the proposed Enumclaw Recycling Center, claims his business won’t affect the surrounding water systems, he had to shut down a former business when the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department discovered he was operating an unpermitted dump site and the Pierce County Superior Court officially ruled his property a “public nuisance which must be abated,” county documents read.
At the moment, the Enumclaw Recycle Center plan is still going through King County’s permitting process.
McKinney said he hopes enough people who oppose the recycling center join up with EPCA to pressure King County into not permitting the recycling center, or, failing that, request the proposed business to go through the Environmental Impact Statement process, which is a more in-depth environmental review than the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.
But that’s not all EPCA wants to tackle — the group wants to tackle everything from agricultural and environmental issues to recreation opportunities, development and traffic concerns, and more.
“We’re all concerned about more traffic coming through,” Meeks said.
Besides the meeting on this coming Saturday, EPCA also meets monthly at Flint Tip on March 16, April 20, May 25, June 22, July 6, Aug. 24, Sept. 21, Oct. 26, and Nov. 9 from 9 to 11 a.m. The meeting on Feb. 23 currently does not have a location or time. Other dates, location and times may change.