The City of Mukilteo has purchased 98 acres within Japanese Gulch for $5.4 million dollars from the court-ordered Metropolitan Mortgage liquidation trust. The acquisition will permanently preserve the gulch for community park uses and resolve the potential for conflicting industrial and traffic impacts on Mukilteo and Everett neighborhoods.
The City’s acquisition, announced Feb. 21, 2014, is the culmination of efforts going back to 1996 by the City, Snohomish County, the State of Washington, the Japanese Gulch Group and Forterra to assemble a protected area of over 144 acres. Japanese Gulch is located at the northeastern corner of the Mukilteo city limits and is bisected by Mukilteo Boulevard. The gulch has a rich cultural history. For generations of Native Americans, the mouth of the Gulch has provided vital resources and quality of life. After Mukilteo Lumber Company (later Crown Lumber Company) was established in 1903, many workers were Japanese immigrants and lived with their families in what became known as Japanese Gulch.
“The City leaned into the opportunity, making a critical investment to leverage the state and county funds secured by our allies among the Snohomish County Council and Senator Shin, Representatives Liias and Roberts of the 21st District,” said Mayor Gregerson. “With the Gulch protected, I am keenly interested in evaluating how we can cost-effectively restore, steward and improve access to all of Mukilteo’s forested ravines.”
“We bonded the Snohomish County Conservation Futures fund to seize just this kind of opportunity,” noted Councilman Brian Sullivan. “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.”
Forterra worked closely with the City to raise funds and negotiate the purchase. “Forterra is guided by the Cascade Agenda, a 100-year vision for the sustainability of our region. Acquisition of the Gulch delivers on our twin goals for creating great communities and conserving great lands,” said Michelle Connor, an Executive Vice President at Forterra, in celebrating the project’s progress.
Funding for the purchase includes a $1 million appropriation from the State of Washington, in recognition of the unique cultural heritage of the property, and $3.3 million in grant funds from the Snohomish County Conservation Futures program. The City of Mukilteo appropriated the remaining costs and capital funds from park acquisition funds, general funds and real estate excise taxes.
The property features mature forests, steep ravines, wetlands, and wildlife habitat for a variety of species, including bald eagles, pileated woodpecker, and great blue heron. Nearly 2 miles of Japanese Gulch Creek provides habitat for coho salmon and searun cutthroat, running through fish-accessible culverts directly into Puget Sound. In addition, the Gulch harbors cultural legacies of both Native American and Japanese American residents of the area.
There are currently 2.6 miles of trails on publicly owned land in the Gulch, approximately 5 miles of informal trails on the property now under contract, which could be expanded to 8 miles, total, with a future connection to the waterfront.
“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, and hope that Forterra will help create a strategic restoration plan and the infrastructure to support volunteer engagement.” said Gulch Group President Arnie Hammerman.
Forterra is an unconventional land trust that works across Washington’s communities and landscapes, from the ranches and shrub-steppe of the Yakima basin, to the estuaries, farms and forests of Washington’s coast, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, towns and rural communities. Working cooperatively with people and nature, Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning; innovative programs and policies; farming and forestry approaches; community ownership opportunities; and development solutions. Visit www.forterra.org.