Photo courtesy of Mountains to Sound Greenway
                                The view of the Mountains to Sound Greenway from Mt. Defiance. The greenway was recently was designated as a National Heritage area.

Photo courtesy of Mountains to Sound Greenway The view of the Mountains to Sound Greenway from Mt. Defiance. The greenway was recently was designated as a National Heritage area.

Mountains to Sound Greenway designated as a National Heritage Area

1.5-million-acre landscape stretches from Ellensburg to Seattle

A coordinated eight-year effort from local nonprofits, citizens, businesses, politicians and government agencies came to fruition when the Mountains to Sound Greenway was designated as a National Heritage Area (NHA) by Congress on March 12.

The Mountains to Sound Greenway is supported by The Greenway Trust, a Washington state based nonprofit, and encompasses a dynamic 1.5-million-acre landscape that stretches from Ellensburg to Seattle, including areas on Mercer Island. It connects urban centers, vast forests, meadow-strewn mountain peaks, small farms and rural communities.

The Greenway is now one of 55 heritage areas in the country, joining the likes of New York’s Niagara Falls, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. It is the first NHA designated in the Pacific Northwest, along with the new Maritime Washington NHA.

The designation brings opportunities to “conserve natural resources, protect our cultural heritage, and contribute to the economic vitality of the region” as the communities in the area undergo massive growth.

Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, said the designation could expand tourism opportunities. For example, Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, but having it be surrounded by a National Heritage Area could encourage visitors to explore other nearby areas.

“It’s a real boon for helping draw people to this region,” he said.

Many of the parks, open spaces and recreation in the Greenway are supported by public-private partnerships, such as Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, where the Trust has worked to help restore fish habitat, Hoekstra said.

“[The] park is a crown jewel, and is what it is because of partnerships,” he said. “[It’s] undergoing a renaissance of cooperative investment.”

With cities, counties, businesses and citizens, the trust works to promote public land acquisitions, connect a continuous regional trail system, preserve rural lifestyles, teach people of all ages about forests and wildlife and mobilize thousands of volunteers to care for the landscape.

Federal elected officials who worked to secure the designation said it will also help the economy.

Hoekstra said the first effort to designate the region as a National Heritage Area started 15 years ago, and legislation was originally introduced in 2013.

It has been backed by bipartisan political support from Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. Representatives Adam Smith, Suzan DelBene, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier and former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert. It finally passed as a result of Cantwell’s bipartisan work on a public lands package, which contained more than 100 bills.

“To get a local issue to pass Congress requires broad support,” Hoekstra said. “And people love their public lands.”

Abundant trails, parks and public lands make the Greenway a place everyone can experience. On Mercer Island, that includes the Mountains to Sound Trail, previously known to many residents as the I-90 Trail, used by thousands of walkers and cyclists year-round.

The city of Mercer Island partners with the trust to plan and implement a wide range of volunteer planting and restoration events in natural areas. They co-hosted Mercer Island’s first Arbor Day event last October.

Other cities on the Eastside also partner with the trust to improve access to public lands and environmental protection, education and stewardship, as well as regional trail connections, such as the Eastside Rail Corridor in Bellevue.

The trust’s partners have included Puget Sound Energy, Waste Management, REI, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Starbucks and Carter Subaru, which has helped plant 175,000 trees in the past 10 years.

See www.mtsgreenway.org for more.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

The Mountains to Sound Greenway was recently was designated as a National Heritage area. Photo courtesy of Mountains to Sound Greenway

The Mountains to Sound Greenway was recently was designated as a National Heritage area. Photo courtesy of Mountains to Sound Greenway

More in Northwest

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

State regulators keep Puget Sound Energy rates steady

Rate adjustments ease economic impact during COVID-19 pandemic

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

AG Ferguson wants to require law enforcement statewide to report all uses of deadly force

Report to Legislature recommends centralized, easily accessible statewide website on incidents

Stay local with summer travel plans | State Department of Health

Officials want people to limit cross-state travel to help slow spread of COVID-19

Most Read