Mukilteo now owns 140 acres of Japanese Gulch

By Sara Bruestle | Feb 21, 2014

Mukilteo now owns the last 97 acres of undeveloped land within Japanese Gulch, purchased Friday for $5.4 million from the court-ordered Metropolitan Trust.

The city, in partnership with Washington state, has acquired more than 140 acres of undeveloped land in the gulch to preserve it as parks and open space. Efforts go back to 1996 to save it.

“I am just delighted that this has truly become a regional issue where both the county and the state, as well as the citizens of Mukilteo, realize how valuable this property is,” said Council President Randy Lord.

The purchase and sale agreement closed on Friday, Feb. 21, for 97.7 acres on the border of Mukilteo and Everett.

The property was paid for by $4.3 million in state and Snohomish County grants. Another $1.1 million of various city funds were also allocated for the purchase.

The city worked with the independent land trust Forterra to raise funds and negotiate the purchase. Forterra will be paid $200,000 for helping the city buy the land.

Other partners in the mission included the Snohomish County Council, former Sen. Paull Shin, Sen. Marko Liias and Rep. Mary Helen Roberts of the 21st District, former Mayor Joe Marine and the Japanese Gulch Group.

"Acquisition of the gulch delivers on our twin goals for creating great communities and conserving great lands,” said Michelle Connor, an executive vice president of Forterra.

Funding for the purchase includes $1 million from the state and $3.3 million in Snohomish County Conservation Futures grants. The city covered the remaining costs with park acquisition, municipal facilities and real estate excise tax funds.

The Mukilteo City Council unanimously approved the allocation of these funds on Feb. 18. The city will also apply for its own tourism grant to go toward the purchase.

“We’ve been at this a long time – protection of the gulch was a must have for the city of Mukilteo and for Snohomish County,” said County Councilmember Brian Sullivan.

“We bonded the Snohomish County Conservation Futures fund to seize just this kind of opportunity.”

Mukilteo was in a time crunch to acquire the land: Metropolitan Creditors Trust is bankrupt and was court ordered to sell the property by 2014.

The city wanted to be the first to make an offer, for fear that a private developer might get it.

A ballot measure asked voters in 2012 for up to $3.2 million in bonds to help purchase the last 97 acres.

Although it failed to get the required 60 percent supermajority, Gregerson said it seemed to help the cause.

“58.5 percent of residents said they really wanted to invest in the gulch,” Gregerson said. “I think that was a strong message that has been helpful for council and our community to recognize the value of preserving Japanese Gulch.”

Mukilteo is working with the city of Everett to de-annex the 97 acres, which promised to do so as long as the property is kept as parkland.

This city is also partnering with the Japanese Gulch Group, which supports preservation of the gulch, to create and maintain trails in the new property.

“We look forward to continuing to help the city to preserve and maintain Japanese Gulch as a healthy urban forest with trails available to the public," said Arnie Hammerman, president of the group.

Right now, there are about 3 miles of trails on city-owned land in the gulch and about 5 miles of informal trails on the property now under contract.

That could be expanded to 8 miles total, with a future connection to the waterfront, Connor said.

 

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