In major development decision, city OKs buildings up to 150 feet in business district

December 22, 2011

NEW — 9:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 2011

Tall buildings could someday punctuate the skyline in the modest business district along state Route 900, after city leaders created a framework Monday to transform acre upon acre blanketed in storage units, low-slung office buildings and automotive service centers into a dense neighborhood for shops and homes.

In a landmark decision, City Council members approved a 30-year agreement between the city and longtime Issaquah developer Rowley Properties to overhaul almost 80 acres in the coming decades. The council agreed to allow buildings up to 150 feet tall and mixed-use development on up to 4.4 million square feet in Hyla Crossing and Rowley Center — parcels along Interstate 90 and state Route 900.

The landowner, in turn, is required to pay for transportation upgrades, affordable housing construction, Tibbetts Creek restoration efforts and storm-water system improvements.

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Snowfall dusts Issaquah Alps as cold temperatures linger

November 18, 2011

Light snowfall dusted the Forest Rim neighborhood on Squak Mountain early Friday morning. By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10:45 a.m. Nov. 18, 2011

Snowfall dusted the Issaquah Alps overnight and into early Friday morning, as meteorologists predicted more light snow for the area in the coming days.

Snow coated trees on Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains, but roads remained clear. Residents in Forest Rim awoke to a dusting similar to powdered sugar. Snow clung to cars, rooftops and shrubbery in the highest-elevation neighborhood on Squak Mountain.

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Cruise passengers urged to explore beyond Seattle

October 25, 2011

From the Space Needle to Pike Place Market, Seattle has plenty to offer its guests, but the Washington Tourism Alliance and the Port of Seattle are encouraging cruise ship tourists to explore beyond the predictable city limits. They are hoping tourists will venture into the suburban and rural areas outside of Seattle, including Issaquah.

“It’s really about what can you offer as an attractive package as an add-on to the cruise purchase,” said Dan Trimble, then-economic development manager for the city of Issaquah. “We’re pretty fortunate here to have several things that can be easily compartmentalized to those packages.”

Bill Bryant

From the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and Cougar Mountain Zoo, to outdoor opportunities and shopping districts, Issaquah has plenty to offer its tourists, Trimble said.

This is part of a plan carried out by the newly established Washington Tourism Alliance, which is working along with the Port of Seattle and other tourism agencies to let people know about the tourist opportunities that exist outside of Seattle.

“The cruise ship (industry) brings about $400 million to King County and the region, and that’s because the passengers are staying one to two nights in the area. But most of them are spending that time in downtown Seattle,” Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant said.

He said he hopes the cruise ship tourists extend their stay and explore the surrounding areas, “whether that is wineries in Woodinville or going out to Snoqualmie Falls.”

The state Legislature recently cut funding for the state tourism office.

In its place, various stakeholders including the port, some of the hotel associations and some of the restaurant associations have established the WTA to serve as a vehicle for communities to reach out to tourists, Bryant said.

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Cougar Mountain ranks among United States’ top trail-running locations

October 25, 2011

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park is among the 25 best places for trail running in the United States.

Runner’s World magazine named the Issaquah Alps peak to the list in a recent issue.

“Every urban area should be blessed with a trail running sanctuary as sublime as Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park,” the magazine noted.

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National Public Lands Day comes to Issaquah Alps

September 23, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. Sept. 23, 2011

Issaquah Alps peaks host volunteers Saturday for National Public Lands Day.

Organizations plan trail work on Cougar and Tiger mountains in the Issaquah area.

Washington Trails Association and King County Parks volunteers plan to decommission old trail sections along Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park’s Indian Trail.  The decommissioning involves adding plants in the old tread.

The work party runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event is designed for families, and participants can sign up at the Washington Trails Association’s website.

The state Department of Natural Resources and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance plan to build Tiger Mountain trails Saturday for National Public Lands Day.

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State seeks adults to aid conservation projects

August 16, 2011

The state Department of Ecology needs 245 people between the ages of 18 and 25 to plant native shrubs and trees, restore salmon-bearing streams, respond to emergencies and more.

The agency is seeking applicants to the Washington Conservation Corps, a program to put young adults, including military veterans, on the job at projects in 16 counties statewide.

For the 2011-12 service year, the Department of Ecology intends to hire 150 Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members using a $2 million AmeriCorps grant from the state Commission for National and Community Service.

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Issaquah is cougar territory, but big cats still scarce

August 2, 2011

State wildlife biologist Brian Kertson spent five years studying the local cougar population, including this 130-pound, 2-year-old male captured and tagged in the Cedar River Watershed in 2008. Contributed

Now a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Issaquah native Brian Kertson likes to talk about what he calls the “wildland-urban interface.”

Basically, such an area is where raw, undeveloped nature bumps up against developed, urban areas.

Probably not surprisingly to those who live or work here, sitting as it does in the shadows of the Cascade foothills, Issaquah is just such an interface.

And, of course, such interfaces can contain plenty of wildlife, including larger animals not usually found in urban areas.

“The kind of territory we live in is cougar territory whether we realize it or not,” said Bob McCoy, a local wildlife activist who takes a special interest in cougars and is an admirer of Kertson’s work.

For his part, Kertson clearly agrees with McCoy’s assessment regarding cougars in Issaquah. From 2003-08, Kertson completed a large-scale study of cougars in Issaquah and surrounding areas. The work represented Kertson’s doctoral thesis at the University of Washington.

“Previously, we just didn’t know a lot about the cougars in that area,” Kertson added.

Finished last year, Kertson’s work is attracting some attention and may be published in the near future. Along with similar studies done across the state, it also is being used as the basis for developing a statewide policy on how to deal with Washington’s cougar population.

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Hikers map future of mountaineering

August 2, 2011

Janet Wall searches in Issaquah’s Berntsen Park for invasive plants that she can electronically mark. Photo by Tim Pfarr

“Are we there yet? How much farther?”

If you’ve gone hiking with a child, you have surely heard these migraine-inducing questions thousands of times. As you take left and right turns up a mountainside, there is often no good answer to give the tired youngster.

After all, how much farther is it to the top? Where in the world are you on that map you brought?

If only you had a map created with GPS data. Every twist and turn on the trail would be recorded with surgical precision.

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20 reasons to ♥ Issaquah

July 2, 2011

The spectacular landscape is a reason to love Issaquah. By Connor Lee

Discover 20 reasons to love Issaquah, from the highest Tiger Mountain peak to the Lake Sammamish shoreline, and much more in between. The community includes icons and traits not found anywhere else, all in a postcard-perfect setting. The unique qualities — Issa-qualities? — start at the city’s name and extend into every nook and neighborhood. (The lineup is not arranged in a particular order, because ranking the city’s pre-eminent qualities seems so unfair.)

Salmon Days

The annual salmon-centric celebration is stitched into the city’s fabric. Salmon Days serves as a last hurrah before autumn, a touchstone for old-timers and a magnet for tourists. The street fair consistently ranks among the top destinations in the Evergreen State and, for a time last year, as the best festival on earth — in the $250,000-to-$749,000 budget category, anyway.

Issaquah Alps

The majestic title for the forested peaks surrounding the city, the Issaquah Alps, is a catchall term for Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains. (Credit the late mountaineer and conservationist Harvey Manning for the sobriquet.) The setting is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts. Trails — some official and others less so — for hikers, bikers and equestrians crisscross the mountains, like haphazard tic-tac-toe patterns.

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Cougar Mountain is ‘gnarliest’ for trail running novices

June 22, 2011

NEW — 5 p.m. June 22, 2011

Outdoors NW magazine named the popular Cougar Mountain Trail Running Series as No. 1 for novice runners in the inaugural Gnarliest Trail Running Event Awards.

The magazine announced the awards Wednesday. Magazine staffers combed through information about dozens of trail races in the Pacific Northwest to determine the nastiest, gnarliest, toughest and best races.

The magazine ranked the Orcas Island 25K/50K, due to the event’s stunning views of the San Juan Islands, Olympic and Cascade mountains; a heart-pounding single-track course up and down Mount Constitution and the all-weekend race party on the island, including a post-race keg and live music.

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