Maureen McCarry receives city’s top environmental honor

March 21, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 p.m. March 21, 2011

The latest recipient of the top environmental honor in Issaquah acted as a guiding force — in public and behind the scenes — in the long-running effort to shape neighborhoods and preserve undeveloped land.

Leaders elevated Maureen McCarry into the pantheon alongside other important conservation activists, and bestowed the Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community on the former councilwoman at a City Hall ceremony Monday night.

Mayor Ava Frisinger cited the countless hours McCarry contributed to forge agreements outlining construction in the Issaquah Highlands and Talus, preserve forested Park Pointe near Issaquah High School and strengthen tree-protection rules.

The mayor and Council President John Traeger selected McCarry for the honor after receiving numerous nominations for the former councilwoman, a Squak Mountain resident.

“We look for someone who, over a significant period of time, has demonstrated a very strong commitment to environmental protection and preservation,” Frisinger said before the ceremony.

McCarry is the 10th person to receive the honor named for the late environmentalist. Kees received the inaugural award in 2003. The city honored the most recent recipient, late Mountains to Sound Greenway cofounder Ted Thomsen, last July.

The prize included a sculpture from local artist Deby Harvey and $500 — money from a long-term endowment established as part of Kees’ estate.

Kees served as a muse for Harvey as part of the annual artEAST Collective Memory Project. The program uses art to convey the biographies of notable community members.

Ruth Kees

McCarry plans to match the $500 prize for the Issaquah Environmental Council to plant trees and yank invasive plants.

Kees died at age 84 in May 2009, days after the city honored Harvey Manning, the Issaquah Alps Trails Club pioneer.

In the late 1990s, as builders ratcheted up a housing construction boom, McCarry led the Major Development and Regional Affairs Committee and served on the early committee assigned to forge agreements for the highlands and Talus.

Former Councilman David Kappler, a past Kees honoree, said although McCarry spearheaded many issues as a councilwoman, conservation ranked as a top priority at all times.

“Maureen is super-bright, and sometimes would be ahead of me, and I’d have to play catch up,” he said. “She’s definitely good at looking with things with a different set of eyes, which is something that’s needed.”

McCarry, a retired Harborview Medical Center executive, served on the council from 1998 to 2000, and again from 2005 until December. The tenure included a stint in the top spot, council president, through 2009.

The stint in public service also included serving on the Planning Policy Commission in the mid-1990s.

McCarry resigned last December as symptoms from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, progressed. In a last act as a councilwoman, before a tearful sendoff from council colleagues, she seconded a motion to adopt a Park Pointe agreement.

(The council selected attorney Stacy Goodman to serve in McCarry’s former seat March 7.)


Past Ruth Kees Environmental Award recipients received the honor for efforts to establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway, blaze trails in the Issaquah Alps and protect Issaquah waterways.


Ruth Kees — The environmental activist and award namesake fought for decades to protect Issaquah Creek, Tiger Mountain and the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer.


Joanna Buehler and Janet Wall — Buehler founded Save Lake Sammamish, a nonprofit organization set up to protect and raise awareness about the lake and surrounding watershed. Wall, a city River & Streams Board member, helped improve water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat, in the lake and watershed.


Chrys Bertolotto — Bertolotto, a former city Resource Conservation Office employee, established the Issaquah Stream Team and marshaled dollars to build the Pickering Farm Garden.


David Kappler — The then-councilman advocated for expanded public trails and open space preservation as a public official and as a longtime Issaquah Alps Trails Club member.


Ken Konigsmark — Konigsmark, often the go-to guy when the city needs a strong environmental voice on a task force, shaped land-use policies and helped establish the greenway.


William Longwell Jr. — The longtime Issaquah Alps Trails Club member established trails on Squak and Tiger mountains, and helped preserve west Tiger Mountain for public recreation. (posthumous award)


Harvey Manning — The lifelong mountaineer coined the phrase “Issaquah Alps” for Cougar, Tiger and Squak mountains, but he also pushed to preserve untold acres in the Cascade Mountains. (posthumous award)


Ted Thomsen — Described as “the unsung hero” behind the greenway, Thomsen helped form the 101-mile greenbelt from Seattle to Central Washington. (posthumous award)


Maureen McCarry

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