Help keep gulch history alive

By Arnie Hammerman, Japanese Gulch Group President | Aug 28, 2013

I recently toured Japanese Gulch with Mayor Joe Marine and City Councilmember Richard Emery. Our day was transformed as we entered the gulch.

The soft silence of the woods is such a marked contrast from the busy suburban world we had just stepped out of. The forest is overwhelmingly beautiful with cedars and firs growing out of old growth stumps.

Birds flutter through the canopy overhead. The sparkling blue sky peeks out from between a green patchwork of leafs like a giant kaleidoscope.

Long streaks of light beam down, piercing the shadows as the sunlight carves through the branches. The warm earthy smell of Cedar and it’s rustic red soil on the forest floor fill the air.

This rich forest is reminiscent of what the region was like before the city was even here. These woods rose above the shoreline of an area named Mukilteo “good camping ground” by our local Native Americans.

European settlers arrived and marveled at these deep and solemn forests. Workers were brought in to harvest timber and staff the mills. Japanese families living in these woods lead it to be called Japanese Gulch.

Pioneer Mas Odoi was born here to Japanese immigrant parents and lived his youth in these woods. During World War II, he became a soldier and a hero fighting for the United States in Europe.

The beauty and history of this land is so intertwined that you can feel it on the trails.

Even if you don’t support purchasing this land, try going into the gulch. When you enter Japanese Gulch, you can’t help but think about what our community will lose if this area is paved over and turned into warehouses.

Contemplate the raw beauty, and the history that will be lost forever.

There is little natural land left adjacent to our communities. Securing this last portion of Japanese Gulch and preserving it as urban forest will allow future generations to experience this local treasure.

There has been a lot of talk about Japanese Gulch but, more importantly, there has been action.

Mayor Joe Marine, the Mukilteo City Council and Forterra have been working hard publicly and behind-the-scenes to raise money and find the most feasible way to purchase the remaining 97 acres.

Mayor Marine recently made a presentation to the Snohomish County Conservation Futures Board asking for $2.5 million to purchase land in Japanese Gulch.

The Futures Board, an advisory board to the Snohomish County Council, helps determine how to allocate $25 million in funding among 30 different applicants across the region.

Mukilteo City Council President Randy Lord is on the Futures Board and explained this difficult task.

First, the board set out to ensure the funding requests meet their criteria.

The board was formed to acquire interest in real property for the preservation of open space, farm, agricultural and timberland. These rules helped them narrow the field by focusing only on land acquisition.

Then there was the work of sorting through the paperwork and listening to presentations, which stretched over three days.

They tried to be fair with their assessment and not become biased by flashier presentations. They also had to insure that the region was represented impartially based on geography, so funding was not concentrated in one specific area or project.

The good news is that the Futures Board is recommending nearly the full $2.5 million for Japanese Gulch land acquisition to the Snohomish County Council.

The council takes the recommendations very seriously, since they know how much work was done in the evaluation process, which means it is likely it will be approved.

We appreciate this support and that of County Councilmember and Mukilteo resident Brian Sullivan, along with the rest of the county council, in helping to get this large contribution approved.

As you can see, there is broad community and political support for obtaining this property.

Mayor Joe Marine, as well as mayoral candidate and City Councilmember Jennifer Gregerson both support and are working toward purchasing Japanese Gulch land.

In fact, every single member of the current City Council supports the gulch purchase; they have been working hard to find the best way to make this happen.

In addition, all of the new candidates for the council say they support the purchase of this property in some way.

There certainly are different theories of how we can accomplish this, but the fact remains that all of the local politicians see the inherent value in this property and want to find the best way to obtain it.

We also have great support on the state level. State Rep. Marko Liias, Sen. Paull Shin and many more state politicians recently contributed $1 million for this gulch purchase.

This means we will soon have around $4.3 million in state and regional funding to purchase this property. When the city of Mukilteo determines an appropriate contribution, we can bring an offer to the seller.

If you want to help purchase this property, now is a great time to step up.

If you have a few dollars, or even a few hundred thousand dollars, and would like to make a contribution toward the purchase of Japanese Gulch, let the Japanese Gulch Group know now. We will make sure that your contribution helps facilitate the gulch purchase.

Please contact us if you have questions or would like to be part of this historic purchase. You may contact me at president@japanesegulch.org. For more information, go to www.japanesegulch.org.

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