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Oct. 14, 2005

Sims unveils historic green space and trail investments for King County

ing County Executive Ron Sims today proposed more than $20 million in his 2006 budget that will complement an historic level of investments in acquiring natural lands and open space, and building regional trails.Vowing to "get the most green for our green" and invest new revenues wisely, King County Executive Ron Sims today proposed more than $20 million in his 2006 budget that will complement an historic level of investments in acquiring natural lands and open space, and building regional trails.

"Our citizens have time and again endorsed the idea that we need to safeguard the things that make this region such a wonderful place to live. It is an integral part of our value system," Executive Sims said. "So we are listening and we are delivering."

Sims' budget proposal calls for more than $8.7 million in funding to expand and link regional trails. And his budget includes more than $11.6 million in Conservation Futures Tax dollars for open space and natural lands acquisition. The Executive will deliver his entire budget to the King County Council on October 17.

Sims' proposals were lauded by a cadre of natural lands and trails stakeholders attending Friday's announcement.

"Ron Sims clearly understands what's at stake for keeping King County a great place to live," said Roger Hoesterey, Northwest Regional Director of Trust for Public Land. "These are the investments that need to take place to protect our forests and trails. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for the work we are doing today."

Sims said the budget reflected his determination to deliver on his promise, made in his 2005 State of the County address, to protect an additional 100,000 acres of open space by 2010 and to expand and link King County's regional trails.

"My 2006 budget proposals affirm commitments I made last spring for open space protection and regional trail projects, but I want to stress that we are not breaking the bank as we break new environmental ground," Sims said. "In fact, none of that sizable investment will come from our general fund."

Sims emphasized that the spending will come from dedicated funding sources such as Conservation Futures Tax and Real Estate Excise Tax dollars. An improved King County economy in 2005 has increased these two sources of revenue.

In 1997 King County had only 25,000 acres of open space and trails under permanent protection. With the additions contained in Sims' 2006 proposed budget included, King County will have set aside more than 124,000 acres in perpetuity.

"That is an almost 400 percent increase over eight years, many of them tough budgetary years," he said. "I am very proud of that trend."

Sims said the county is now using a visionary conservation tool unveiled last spring – the Greenprint for King County – to identify and target, down to the individual parcel level, the ecological lands, regional trails, farms, forests and flood protection areas that return the largest public benefits. Developed in partnership with Trust for Public Land, the Greenprint software package is "helping us become more strategic in our investments," Sims said. "It stretches our conservation money farther than seemed possible only a few short years ago."

"When we were developing Greenprint with King County, we talked to over 20 of suburban cities, and the goals Ron has laid out in his budget very much match what we heard from them in what they are trying to accomplish in their communities," Hoesterey said.

In 2006, Sims budget focuses $11.6 million in Conservation Futures dollars on preserving roughly 700 acres of open space and greenbelts. The proposals include:

Projects in partnership with King County cities include:

The Conservation Futures Tax dollars will also help pay for additional projects in Des Moines, Issaquah, Kent, Seattle, Kirkland, Pacific, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish and Shoreline.

King County's regional trail system, now with more than 170 miles of paved and unpaved trails, continues to grow. For 2006, Parks Division budget includes $8.76 million for trail projects for 2006, including:

The trails budget also includes nearly $3.2 million for the Soos Creek Trail, $313,000 for the Three Forks Natural Area Trailhead, $1.6 million for a link between the Sammamish River Trail and East lake Sammamish Trail.

Today's budget announcement comes on the heels of a major agreement with Snohomish County on the Brightwater Treatment Plant. The Brightwater settlement includes a $70 million dollar investment in trails, sidewalks, parks, and wildlife habitat that will leave legacy for the people of both Snohomish and King Counties, forever

Taken together, the combined commitments represent over $90 million dollars in King County investments for parks, trails and green open spaces in the region.

"Not since the 1960's, when Jim Ellis sparked a parks and open space revolution with his "Forward Thrust" agenda, has local government made such a promise to future generations," said Sims.

"As Executive, I have promised that we will be wise stewards of our land and water, just as I have promised to take close care of the public purse. That is what the public expects, and that is what they deserve. The budget I will announce in full on Monday will take us several steps farther down the path toward realizing both goals."

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Updated: Oct. 14, 2005


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