Green Loop Campaign/Land Acquisition
The Finn Hill Green Loop is a long-range project to knit Finn Hill’s parks and green spaces into a continuous woodland pathway that will circle the crown of Finn Hill and ultimately connect to nearby parks and trails such as Juanita Beach, the Cross Kirkland Corridor and the Burke Gilman Trail in Bothell. The loop will be not only a local asset but a regional one as well, expanding the reach of existing Finn Hill parks and adding to a network of trails linking municipalities on the Eastside. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. Conceptual drawing of Finn Hill Green Loop, as shown in Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan (incorporated in Kirkland’s Comprehensive Plan)
The Green Loop will provide residents of Finn Hill (and Kirkland and neighboring communities) access to trails in beautiful forests, creeks and wetlands, and also give the many forms of wildlife that have withstood urbanization the tree cover, fresh water, and connected green space they need to thrive. The Green Loop will ensure that Finn Hill’s slopes are protected from slides and erosion by healthy woodlands, and that trees and native shrubs control surface water runoff so that creek water is clean and flows all year long. A robust tree canopy will also help moderate temperatures and cleanse the air on the hill. We consider the Green Loop as important an element of Finn Hill’s infrastructure as its road, power, water and sewer systems.
Progress to Date
While the Green Loop vision is ambitious, the principal building blocks are already in place. St. Edward Park, Big Finn Hill Park, O.O. Denny Park and the Juanita Woodlands occupy the western side of Finn Hill. The eastern and southern flanks of the hill are dotted with woodlands on steep slopes and ravines, much of which has already been dedicated to open space; the Juanita Heights Park on the southeastern summit of the hill is a keystone for connecting the neighborhood to Juanita Beach and the parkland that rings the shores of Juanita Bay. (Figure 2.)
Fig. 2 Satellite view of Finn Hill. Note parks on western side of hill and dedicated open space parcels on eastern side outlined in red.
Over the last decade, FHNA has worked closely with the City and County to start filling in the gaps between these parks and dedicated open spaces. Juanita Heights Park has been expended and a trail head at the bottom of Goat Hill has been acquired. (Read about the Billy Goat Trail below.) On Goodwill Hill, above Juanita Elementary, FHNA has purchased a small parcel adjacent to an existing conservation easement and dedicated open spaces. To the immediate south of Big Finn Hill Park, FHNA coordinated City and County acquisitions of 7 acres of meadow and forest, protecting a segment of Denny Creek near its headwaters in the park’s beaver pond. FHNA is also negotiating a conservation easement over a portion of wooded property in the Holmes Point area.
We will continue to partner with City of Kirkland and King County to acquire or negotiate easements over remaining vacant land on Finn Hill that is critical to connecting these parks and dedicated open spaces.
The City of Kirkland has endorsed the Green Loop by incorporating it into its Comprehensive Plan. It partnered with FHNA to obtain King County Conservation Futures Trust funds for the Green Loop project; these funds were spent, with matching contributions from the City and FHNA, to expand Juanita Heights Park.
The City also administers proceeds from a recent King County park levy that were dedicated to acquiring land for the Green Loop. Some of the levy proceeds (about $500,000) have already been applied to purchase open space near Big Finn Hill Park; an additional $1.8 million will be available for other land purchases and for the development of a Green Loop Master Plan in 2024.
City of Kirkland Proposition1, a parks levy measure that will appear on the November ballot, would, if approved by Kirkland voters, provide additional funding for the Green Loop. While most of the levy proceeds will enable the construction of a public aquatic and recreation center in Kirkland, the ballot measure specifies $4.5 million for Green Loop initiatives.
We are presently pursuing the acquisition of parcels needed to complete the Billy Goat Trail. We also want to qualify parcels on the eastern side of Finn Hill and in the Holmes Point area (on the western side of the hill) as conservation easements under King County’s PBRS program. See Figure 3.
Figure 3. Acquisition opportunities shown in red circles and conservation easement candidates shown in blue circles.
Billy Goat Trail
The Billy Goat Trail is the first phase of the Green Loop. It will connect Juanita Heights Park on the southeastern shoulder of Finn Hill (aka Goat Hill) to Juanita Bay. (See Figure 4.)
Working with FHNA, the City obtained $535,000 in CFT grants to expand Juanita Heights Park to the south, toward the bay, and to acquire a small parcel (the Emmel parcel shown in Figure 5 below) near the base of Goat Hill that is essential to creating a trail from the bay to Juanita Heights Park. These acquisitions cost $700,00; CFT funds covered half of the price, the City funded another $300,000, and FHNA contributed $50,000 (raised from Finn Hill residents).
Figure 4. Juanita Heights Park and Billy Goat Trail (prospective route of trail shown in orange).
The City and FHNA are also exploring opportunities to acquire properties that lie between the Emmel parcel and Juanita Heights Park as well as parcels on the southwestern side of park. With these acquisitions, the trail will be complete. We can then focus on negotiating easements over vacant woodland properties sited to the north of Juanita Heights Park and to the southwest (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Purple line runs through Emmel parcel (now owned by the City of Kirkland; red line start in Juanita Heights Park and crosses parcels that are still privately held.
Big Finn Hill Park expansion/Denny Creek preservation: During 2020-22, FHNA worked with the City of Kirkland and King County to arrange for the acquisition of two important parcels of open space along Juanita Drive that border Big Finn Hill Park and straddle the upper portion of O.O. Denny Creek.
Using funds donated by Finn Hill residents for the Green Loop, FHNA signed a contract in 2020 to buy the Winksi lot, a 0.8 acre parcel on Juanita Drive and 133rd Place. Shortly thereafter, the City of Kirkland agreed to accept an assignment of the purchase agreement and closed the transaction in 2021, using Green Loop funds that were made available to the City from the County parks levy.
Figure 6. Properties adjacent to Big Finn Hill Park and straddling O.O. Denny Creek.
Shortly after signing the Winski contract, FHNA began discussions with Jim Koslalos and Dev Zeitlin, the owners of two parcels, covering a little more than 6 acres, to the immediate north. The owners were eager to preserve those parcels as green space even though they had been approached by developers who wanted to build 17 homes on the land. FHNA contacted King County Council member Rod Dembowski, whose district covers Finn Hill (and who previously championed dedicating County park levy funds for the Green Loop). He was able to assemble funding from several County sources to complete a purchase from Jim Kosalos and Dev Zeitlin in two tranches – one in 2021 and the second in 2022. The County is now developing a plan with the City of Kirkland for integrating the Winski and Kosalos/Zeitlin parcels into Big Finn Hill Park.
Conservation easements: FHNA has acquired on small parcel that will serve as a trailhead on the eastern side of Finn Hill’s Green Loop (Furlong parcel, Figure 7) and is negotiating easements over wooded properties on the western side of Finn Hill, in the Holmes Point Neighborhood (Figure 8) that will support a pathway from the neighborhood on the lakeside of the hill to the summit and also serve as a critical trail connection between O.O. Denny Park in Holmes Point and St. Edward Park to the north. We are in discussions with King County about qualifying the easements as conservation easements in order to minimize the tax burden on the underlying landowners.
Figure 7: Furlong parcel – conservation easement candidate in eastern Finn Hill.
Figure 8: Conservation easement candidates in upper Holmes Point area (western Finn Hill).
We are excited about and deeply grateful for support that our Green Loop efforts have received from the City of Kirkland and from King County. But we would not have earned this support without strong backing from Finn Hill residents.
Your contributions to the Green Loop project over the years has shown elected officials that you want to see this vision realized. As importantly, the funds you have contributed have enabled us to put deposits on properties that we need for the Green Loop, giving us time to work with our local government partners to arrange for the final acquisition of those properties.
To continue our progress, we’ll need both additional governmental assistance and continued community support. We can’t assume that public agencies will underwrite the Green Loop completely. We have to finance some of this project ourselves.
So, please contribute to our Green Loop efforts here on our donation page. Your donations are tax deductible and they will be applied to ensure that the Finn Hill neighborhood will be green, healthy and inviting for generations to come.