A Short History of the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance

A Short History of the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance

The Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance is an independent, community-based nonprofit, which started out as a grassroots volunteer organization called the Denny Creek Neighborhood Alliance (DCNA), formed in 1994. Organized to protect the quality of the community’s rich woodlands and waterways, it also raised public awareness of these natural backyard treasures over many years’ time.

The genesis of DCNA

In the beginning was the Woods. And the woods were with dogs. In the woods were trail walkers, and children, hikers and joggers.

While it’s hard to pinpoint any specific Genesis story, friends and neighbors of Finn Hill and Holmes Point, walking in the forests and parks, and bumping frequently into each other, started talking in the early 1990s about forming an organization to care for the plants, animals, birds, and the natural landscape of the area. In 1994, a county grant for “Exploring Your Backyard Waterways” gathered Finn Hill families for the adventure of bush-whacking trails, through the thickly overgrown hillsides, to follow rainwater on its course to Lake Washington.

First, they wanted to name it after the Denny Creek watershed that drains the western side of Fin Hill; then, realizing the vital role of the residents themselves, the core group of nature lovers, bird watchers–and, simply, neighbors–decided to call it the Denny Creek Neighborhood Alliance (DCNA), setting up by-laws and formally incorporating the group as a 501 c (3) tax-exempt nonprofit in 1996.

Restoring Soils and Streams

Having witnessed windstorms and landslides, as well as eroding streams, over the years, members of DCNA dedicated themselves first to two big challenges: soil and salmon restoration.

After studying the terrain, and learning about the fragile soil structure deposited long ago by the movements of glaciers, and recognizing the role of tree roots in helping stabilize the soil, DCNA worked with King County staff to create laws that would protect mature trees and native vegetation. The Significant District Overlay (SDO) zoning rules was adopted by King County Council in 1999, and later incorporated into Kirkland’s municipal code when the city annexed Finn Hill in 2011.

The salmon creek that originates at Big Finn Hill Park and runs downstream through O.O. Denny Park, had deteriorated. It no longer provided suitable habitat for salmon, having been altered in the 1930s by a dam and hatchery operation, which blocked fish from swimming upstream to spawn. DCNA raised funds to build a 150-foot ‘fish ladder,’ using imported rocks and boulders, to recreate the natural flow of the stream, thus helping salmon to gradually climb upstream, resting in little eddies and pools between leaps. Neighbors pitched in, and, for five years, incubated and released Coho fry to encourage salmon to return to the creek. They acquired large grants from King County to help fund the repairs and hired a team to rebuild the creek’s banks and streambed.

Saving the Juanita Woodlands

In 2001, DCNA turned to another important challenge: Saving what became known as the “Juanita Woodlands,” a 40-acre island of forest amid the rapidly expanding residential and commercial development of Kirkland’s Juanita area. The state had made known its possible intention to sell this parcel of woodlands along Juanita Drive. Held as School Trust Land by the State of Washington as a potential revenue source for the construction of public schools, the land was at risk of being sold to private developers, who would likely clear cut the forest for new housing. DCNA led an effort to convince King County to help fund public purchase of the land.

To help fund the land acquisition, DCNA supporters pledged to contribute half a million dollars of their own funds .Impressed by this grassroots commitment, the County Council bought the property and dedicated it as permanent open space. In 2008, at the end of a five-year pledge campaign, DCNA presented King County with a check for $500,000 dollars. It also secured additional funding from the state legislature. The King County Council responded by recognizing DCNA and its supporters for having come through in saving the Juanita Woodlands.

Since then, DCNA (and now, FHNA) has worked with the County and forestry experts on a multi-year program to [link to Woodlands Project] restore the Woodlands to health, by identifying diseased trees and clearing them. Volunteers gather several times each year to plant new seedlings, in so doing diversifying the species in the woods and enhancing both its health and its long-term aesthetics. So far, nearly 7000 new trees have been planted.

The Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance is an independent, community-based nonprofit, which started out as a grassroots volunteer organization called the Denny Creek Neighborhood Alliance (DCNA), formed in 1994. Organized to protect the quality of the community’s rich woodlands and waterways, it also raised public awareness of these natural backyard treasures over many years’ time.

Protecting the Denny Creek Watershed

Celebrating Denny Fest

Evolving to Today

Other Initiatives

–Francesca Lyman http://kirkland.patch.com/articles/kirkland-author-is-writing-for-planet-earth

 –Francesca Lyman http://kirkland.patch.com/articles/kirkland-author-is-writing-for-planet-earth

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