Half a million King County residents don’t have easy access to a park, trail or to green space. Think about that for a minute.
In a county world-renowned for its amazing outdoor possibilities – its Cascade Mountains, mighty forestlands, lush farmlands providing local food, salmon-bearing streams and rivers, its world-class trail system, lakes both large and small, and the iconic Puget Sound – nearly a quarter of its residents can’t reach a park or trail within a 10-minute walk.
King County also added nearly 50,000 new residents in 2017; more than 200,000 are expected over the next decade. An average of 50 people are moving to King County every day.
In response to this increased pressure on public open spaces, farmland, and environmentally valuable lands – and in response to the region’s open space inequities – King County Executive Dow Constantine is advancing legislation to save the last, best places in King County and make sure every community has easy access to green space.
This is the first in a series of actions taken in support of the Land Conservation Initiative, an effort to improve access to green spaces and preserve 65,000 acres of remaining vital and at-risk open space lands in King County within a generation (30 years), before the opportunity is lost due to population growth and development pressure.
Along with preserving ecologically-important lands and making green space investments in communities with the greatest need, the Land Conservation Initiative vision includes expanding and linking regional trails, and saving farmlands, forests and river corridors across the county important to local economies, habitat, and recreation.
The legislation would increase bond financing with the existing Conservation Futures Tax (CFT) – a small property tax in place since 1982 of under 4 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value that has helped purchase and protect forests, shorelines, greenways and trails.
This would allow King County to pull forward almost $148 million over the next four years to accelerate protection of thousands of acres of green space while we still can.
The legislation would also remove CFT match requirements for creating new green space in neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to parks and trails.
At a press event in an urban Tukwila neighborhood, where kids need a place to play, Executive Constantine also announced establishment of an Open Space Equity Cabinet composed of community leaders and residents to help guide investments and eliminate open space inequities.
“Green and open spaces, clean air and water, and places for quiet reflection, an uninterrupted walk or for watching our children play – these are core to our health and our quality of life,” said Executive Constantine. “If we want to provide and improve these opportunities for King County residents, then we need to make investments in every part of our county before it is too late.”