South Cove, a haven by the shore
April 16, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Walking through Issaquah’s South Cove neighborhood, you’re likely to feel as if you’ve been magically transported to the past.
That’s not to say that the homes look antiquated. It’s simply that the community offers a way of living that hearkens back to a simpler, calmer time.
In today’s bustling environment that puts an emphasis on speed and short attention spans, life in South Cove seems less rushed and personal.
Drive through the neighborhood on a nice, summer day and you will likely find children safely riding their bikes through the community’s meandering, hill-less streets. Later, you may find teens playing a pickup game of football at South Cove’s private lakefront park. Finally, at night, after the kids are put to sleep, you might see Mom and Dad sharing a glass of wine on the beach watching the sun set off in the distance.
Where South Cove thrives, though, is in its sense of community. Families get together often and residents know each other by name, something that is becoming rarer in today’s society.
“You really feel like you are in the middle of something that is a community,” South Cove resident Kevin Connor said. “It’s just a really neat feeling to feel like my family is part of a bigger family.”
37 years new
The South Cove community is relatively new to Issaquah, after residents voted for annexation in the fall of 2005. The neighborhood itself, however, was developed in 1976 by Fred Burnstead and Burnstead Construction Co.
“He was a godsend, really. He couldn’t have created a nicer place,” said resident Allyn Schinski, who has lived in South Cove since 1979.
South Cove became one of the first prestigious waterfront communities on Lake Sammamish, but it took some time to build it up to what it is today, Schinski said.
“When I first moved here, there wasn’t much here,” she said. “It was pretty rural for a long time.”
Today, the community is comprised of more than 280 homes in a variety of sizes and styles. South Cove has something for everyone, from extravagant waterfront properties, to simpler, older homes.
It is characterized by its relatively quiet streets, with little traffic and a flat system of sidewalks. There are only two entrances into the neighborhood, and no major thoroughfares, providing a strong sense of safety for the community’s families.
The crown jewel of South Cove, however, is the neighborhood’s private 4.6-acre lakefront park that has a tennis court, a playground, a large, grass playfield and a beach with more than 100 feet of lakefront property.
‘A remarkable amenity’
The South Cove Homeowners’ Association spends a significant part of its budget working to maintain and beautify the community park. It has also hired a security guard in the past to ensure that the park does indeed remain private to its residents.
“It’s just a remarkable amenity,” longtime resident Doug Arensberg said. “It’s easily, by far, the community’s most valuable asset.”
The private park plays host to most of South Cove’s community events. From the annual Fourth of July celebration to the neighborhood Easter egg hunt, the park has acted as the backdrop for decades’ worth of memories for its residents.
“It really is this place that we kind of can’t help going to,” Connor said. “It gets you out and it gets you with your families.”
The park is bordered by a multitude of homes, acting as a sort of extension of a backyard for many of its homeowners, Connor said. Surrounded by attentive neighbors, families feel at ease allowing their kids to walk to the park with their friends, without parental supervision.
“First and foremost, it’s a park where children know that they can go there safely,” Connor said. “If one of my children say, ‘I’m going to the park,’ I don’t think twice about it. I’m pretty confident that they’re going to stay out of trouble.”
‘I could never replace what I have here’
That sense of security is one of the major reasons that residents flock to South Cove.
The familiarity among neighbors cultivates an environment where everyone looks after each other. Whether it’s keeping an eye on a neighbor’s home while the family is on vacation, or monitoring children as they play in the park, South Cove residents generally do rally to care for each other.
“It’s just something that has made a positive difference in our lives, to know that my family lives in such a nurturing community,” Connor said. “Thank goodness we found this. I feel like I’m a better person for it, and my kids are healthier and happier for having discovered this little gem.”
When Schinski first moved to South Cove, she never dreamed she would still be there more than 30 years later, but through the years, she could not help but become entrenched in the culture of the peaceful, safe and caring neighborhood.
“You can always buy a house, but you can never buy neighbors, and I really think that’s the key,” she said. “I could never replace what I have here. This strong sense of community and the feeling of safety, I think it’s a big draw for people.”
By the numbers
- 4.6 — The number of acres that encompass the community’s private lakefront park.
- 289 — The number of homes in South Cove.
- 1976 — The year that Burnstead Construction Co. began developing South Cove.
- 2005 — The year that residents voted for annexation into Issaquah.
On the Web
Learn more about the South Cove neighborhood at the South Cove Homeowners’ Association’s website,