Dusk is a show at Sunset Valley Farms
December 31, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Sunset Valley Farms resident Art Converse doesn’t need a clock to determine what time of day it is in the tranquil neighborhood located at the foot of Squak Mountain.
He simply listens for the soft pattering wings of the 60-70 geese that fly over the rural valley at both dusk and dawn.
“Sometimes they’re honking and making all kinds of noise, and sometimes they’re not, and if they’re not, all you hear is whoosh, whoosh, whoosh,” he said.
It is a sound he would miss most dearly, Converse admitted, if he ever decided to leave the quiet neighborhood of 90 homes nestled along Southeast May Valley Road.
Residents are not entirely sure where the community’s name came from, but it isn’t hard to deduce.
The neighborhood sits in a valley and boasts some magnificent views of the sunset, Converse said.
Sunset Valley Farms was established in 1986 on land that used to house a vast dairy farm. To this day, homeowners still find remnants of its past buried in their backyards.
Converse once found an old rotten box filled with what looked like cattle medication. Another time, he found a horseshoe.
“The evidence of the farm’s existence just surrounds us,” he said.
The neighborhood sits on a designated flood plain, one that is prone to flooding from nearby McDonald Creek in extreme weather situations.
But that hasn’t been much of an issue recently, since King County dredges an intersecting creek, preventing major flooding. The creek bank does crest several times per year, though.
Sunset Valley Farms is far from certain amenities, so in case of a storm or power outage, the community is often on its own, Converse said.
“I’m one of the original owners, so I’ve been here through ice storms and power outages,” he said. “People really learn to depend on each other during those times.”
Sunset Valley Farms represents a small piece of suburbia along a road that is mostly dotted with farms, pastures and horses, but it is this rural quality that often attracts homeowners.
“I’m a retired firefighter, and coming home from a difficult day at work, in the mornings, you’d drive through pastures of horses and it was just a serene setting that’s totally different from the environment that I just came from,” Converse said.
‘No two houses alike’
The community is comprised of large family homes, sitting on larger plots of land, giving homeowners plenty of room for significant expanses of grass and gardens.
“The sound of the lawnmowers during the summer is deafening,” longtime resident Helen Scott joked.
The majority of the community’s houses were bought and designed by the original homeowners, providing for a variety of houses not often seen in modern day developments.
Scott, and her husband Dick, for example, hired a contractor to build their home in 1988, when they moved to the area from Burien.
“There are probably no two houses alike,” Dick Scott said. “It’s not like a housing tract where they all look the same.”
It’s a very walkable neighborhood with no major thoroughfares and many spacious driveways where kids can safely play. Children in the community attend Maple Hills Elementary School, Maywood Middle School and Liberty High School.
There’s also a fair share of wildlife from raccoons, deer and bears and sometimes residents even spot elk at the edge of the neighborhood.
“I had never seen them, and I had heard neighbors talking about them, and one night my sister and I went for a walk at dusk and there they were,” Helen Scott said of her elk sighting.
A burgeoning sense of community
Sunset Valley Farms’ large land plots allow for moderate spacing between neighbors, but that does not keep locals from forming strong bonds.
“We know all the neighbors that live around us,” Helen Scott said. “People in the city don’t even know the person that lives next door to them. They come and go, and they don’t even interact.”
The neighborhood is working to create more of a community identity, though, Converse said, and that starts with an active homeowners association.
The association often hosts community get-togethers including garage sales and Halloween parties for the children.
Sunset Valley Farms also has two vacant public parcels that the neighborhood hopes to refurbish and use as community gathering spots in the future.
“There’s a village spirit here that I think is really unique in today’s society,” Converse’s wife, Victoria Lee said.
The neighborhood is filled with growing families taking advantage of the spacious homes, as well as a few empty nesters, such as Converse, Lee and the Scotts, who just can’t bring themselves to move.
“It’s hard to find a location where you like it as well as you do here,” Helen said. “It’s hard to leave a place like this.”