Exploring the Eastside is an occasional series spotlighting the Eastside's special places. If you've got a suggestion, send it to east@seattletimes...
Exploring the Eastside is an occasional series spotlighting the Eastside’s special places. If you’ve got a suggestion, send it to email@example.com or call us at 425-453-2130.
Dave Battey waits in the parking lot of Snoqualmie Middle School, holding a photocopied map of Meadowbrook Farm marked with yellow lines.
It’s a crisp afternoon, perfect weather to traipse through the farm’s pastures and learn about its colorful past and the battle to keep the 460 acres as open space.
Battey was one of many residents who fought development on the property in the mid-1990s. Now, he and other local historians are out to raise awareness about this vast stretch of land they lobbied so hard to preserve.
Battey gives tours of Meadowbrook six times a year. Sometimes more than a dozen people show up. On this day, there are two.
Meadowbrook Farm sits on the Snoqualmie Valley floor, between North Bend and Snoqualmie, two miles from Snoqualmie Falls. The Snoqualmie tribe used the prairie for hunting and farming for thousands of years before white settlers arrived.
The tour begins with a walk to Boy Scout Island 1, a four-acre field where Boy Scouts camped in the 1950s. The ground is carpeted by knee-high grass now. Mount Si sits majestically in the background.
“You see this?” Battey said, gesturing to the open field. “This is exactly what it looked like 5,000 years ago. How many places can you say that about?”
Battey stops to impart some history on what once was the Snoqualmie Valley’s world-famous cash crop: hops.
Early settlers were thrilled when rainy Pacific Northwest conditions produced enormous yields. In the late 1800s, they consolidated their farms to form the world’s largest hop ranch at what is now Meadowbrook Farm. Hop vines sustained the valley economically and provided Native American families with jobs as they were being displaced from their land, Battey said.
“Hops turned out to be a lifesaver for many people,” he said.
It wouldn’t last long. By the late 1890s, the crops were wiped out by an insect infestation. The site became a large cattle and dairy operation that continued into the 1950s, known by its present-day name of Meadowbrook Farm.
The Snoqualmie Valley was a rich source of other resources, too, like cedar trees. This wood was invaluable, says Gardiner Vinnedge of North Bend, a high-school history teacher who was part of the tour group.
“The beauty of cedar is that it’s full of oil and it has a straight grain that is great for splitting wood,” Vinnedge says.
Cedar was perfect for shingles and for building homes — and it smelled good. Shredding the inner bark yielded a fine, absorbent material that Native Americans used to line cloth diapers.
A half-mile away, between Stone Quarry Road and Highway 202, is the rock quarry. Battey explains how the site was part of the Snoqualmie creation myth, where mystical animals and humans swung on a cedar-bough rope suspended from heaven.
Plans to develop the open fields into homes and shopping malls were “this close,” he says, pinching his thumb and forefinger together, when efforts to save the historic prairie began in 1992.
A coalition of local, county and regional interests worked to save the open fields, forests, wetlands and riverfront in North Bend and Snoqualmie.
Most of the property was purchased for $4.3 million several years ago with funding from North Bend, Snoqualmie, King County and the state. Much of the farm remains as it has been for centuries.
The farm is a key piece of the 125,000-acre Mountains to Sound Greenway preservation area that stretches from Seattle to Kittitas County. It connects to Rattlesnake Ridge to the south and to the Three Forks Natural Area to the north, and is bisected by the Snoqualmie Valley Trail located near the North Bend Library. The land is managed by the nonprofit Meadowbrook Farm Preservation Association.
The last stop on the tour is the farm’s new interpretive center on Boalch Avenue, tentatively scheduled to open June 11. The cedar building mirrors the longhouse style from pioneer days. Its double doors open up to a striking view of Mount Si.
A small hop-farming demonstration area will be set up in the yard.
Historical information will be displayed at the house.
“There’s some amazing property here,” said Battey. “But the story of it isn’t known much anymore.”
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.orgIF YOU GO
If you go
Meadowbrook Farm is a 460-acre historic public open space on the Snoqualmie Valley floor, once used by Native Americans for hunting and growing food. Free tours are given at various times of the year, but visitors are welcome any time. A new interpretive center tentatively scheduled to open June 11 will showcase the history of the farm.
The next tour will be given Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. It begins in the Snoqualmie Middle School parking lot, 9200 Railroad Ave. S.E. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for a hike. Shorter tours will be offered on Greenway Days June 11 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. These tours will begin at the new interpretive center on Boalch Avenue off of Highway 202 in North Bend. The tours are free and take place rain or shine.
How to get there
Take I-90 to Exit 27. Turn left onto Southeast North Bend Way. Turn left onto Meadowbrook Way. Then make a right onto Highway 202 (Railroad Avenue Southeast) and then a left to Boalch Avenue. The interpretive center is on your left.