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Land Trust Goes Big

Photo: Bordering the city to the west, the Wenatchee Foothills rise steeply above town and offer commanding views of Wenatchee, the Columbia, and the Cascades.

The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust (CDLT) announced at a press conference Wednesday morning that they are shooting the moon and going big. In an effort that will be the biggest fund-raising campaign launched by a non-profit in the Wenatchee Valley, the CDLT is attempting to raise $8.1 million to double the amount of protected open space in the Wenatchee Foothills to a total of 6,000 acres (nearly 9 square miles). Most of the funds will be used for property acquisitions that have already been discussed with willing landowners while $1.6 million will go toward stewardship funds so that the acquired properties can be cared for into perpetuity. The final $400,000 will be used to help restore and improve the existing trail system in the hills.

As is the way of financial drives of this ilk, a quiet phase of the campaign has been under way for about a year, garnering support from some 300 major donors. These efforts have already raised $6.4 million (about 80 percent of the funding goal) and have secured a number of properties that are part of the goal.

On Wednesday morning, the campaign was more formally announced in hopes that the entire community would get behind the movement to protect these lands. Recreationalists, naturalists, and others who appreciate what natural lands, open space, and trails mean to this community’s quality of life are being asked to put their money where their values are. We are being asked to help protect strategic lands that will preserve Wenatchee’s quality of life despite the inevitable growth that the future will bring.

Spring photos: Scenes and adventures accessed from Wenatchee...without driving anywhere.

What’s the big deal? Why is it important to protect the natural lands rising right out of the city? Why should we keep sprawling development and piecemeal ownership from partitioning the hills?

Other Western communities -- like Missoula, Boise, Winthrop, Boulder, Helena and more -- that have protected the open, wild lands adjacent to their cities, and that have created trail systems to facilitate the use of these lands have discovered that land preservation:

  • Creates livable communities where tourists pay to visit and where doctors, lawyers, retirees, and workers with transportable jobs come to live.
  • Improves the public health of children and adults, including the overall health of the local work force.
  • Sustains the wildlife, water, and other natural resources important to their community.
  • Improves the aesthetics, natural beauty, and the appeal of their community.

Bob Bugert, the Executive Director of the Land Trust mentioned Boise, Idaho as an example of what similar campaigns have meant to other communities. Several years ago, Boise invested $10 million to better protect its foothills and improve access to their lands with more trails and trailheads. For the year of 2012 alone, the local economic contribution of the Boise Foothills to the city was valued at $12 million. In other words, said Bugert, the one-year economic return of these actions was already surpassing the investment. 

Summer photos: There's no need to go anywhere when this is where you live.

Residents of the Wenatchee Valley who are not nature lovers or trail users may need to be sold on this campaign by seeing the economic benefit other communities have realized through the conservation of their open spaces. Those of us who are already outdoor recreationalists, however, understand the importance of these efforts. We understand that the Land Trust’s purchase of Saddle Rock last year (acquired as the initial phase of this campaign) means we will have places adjacent to the city where we can immediately walk, run, bike, and watch wildlife. We understand that acquiring the Horse Lake Preserve (a million dollar acquisition that was also part of this campaign) means keeping the foothills intact as a place to recreate, unwind, appreciate nature, and connect to trails deeper in the mountains. We understand that purchasing property to allow access to Castle Rock and developing trails that connect Castle Rock to Twin Peaks would be a triumph for the community. This is one of several additional opportunities that has yet to be realized, but it will transpire if this campaign succeeds in raising the final $1.7 million.

In time, an even bigger recreational outgrowth of this campaign will be the eventual development of an extensive and integrated Foothills Trail System moving south to north from Saddle Rock to Castle Rock to the Sage Hills, and moving east to west from Wenatchee to Twin Peaks, Mission Creek, the Blewett Pass environs, and even into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. All of these areas can be interlinked by trails with only the occasional crossing of a paved street. What amazing opportunities await us as we go from Ground Zero here in Wenatchee to the great Infinity beyond – all without ever needing to drive a car. For the community, that’s a huge strategic outcome from a relatively modest investment.

Fall photos: Early and late autumn in the Wenatchee Foothills... the good times keep rolling.

Now is the time to cement these opportunities, and we are the citizens tasked with the job. Our recent history shows it’s worth meeting the challenge. Had those who secured and financed the Loop Trail fallen short of the goal, we’d be a far poorer community now. Frankly this is a much more significant opportunity than constructing the Loop. From Here to Infinity … All on Trails: that’s a legacy that will be valued by this community for a century to come and it’s one we can pull off. Many of us who live here already know our foothills are a plum, but this kind of protected backyard trail system will put us on the map as a community with some of the best recreational chops in the country.

Details Details. Getting Involved and Making it Happen

  • See more of the details about the campaign.
  • Donate to the campaign.
  • What else you can do to help? Get friends involved in helping and giving.

Winter photos: The Sage Hills have a seasonal closure in winter (managed as winter range for mule deer) but Dry Gulch, Saddle Rock, and Twin Peaks are still open for a quick connection with nature and an instant dose of fun.