The sprawling Mountains-to-Sound Greenway that stretches from Ellensburg to the Puget Sound shoreline is seeking status as a National Heritage Area.
We know the 1.5 million acre area as the location of hundreds of miles of regional bicycling and hiking trails that link communities and landmarks from Seattle, throughout the Cascades, to Central Washington.
The John Wayne Pioneer rail-trail runs over the hump of the Cascades, and the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, Issaquah-Preston Trail, East Lake Sammamish Trail, Sammamish River Trail and many more serve to link the area for bicyclists and hikers.
The designation would mean the area would be recognized as a nationally important landscape because of its natural, cultural and historic resources.
This would be an important step in preserving the nature of areas that flank Interstate 90 in western Washington.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican whose district include the greenway,introduced a bill in Congress late last month to achieve that status.
The measure has to be approved by Congress. First it has to get through the House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by eastern Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, who generally opposes limits on land use.
If the proposal is approved, the nonprofit grassroots effort by the Mountain to Sound Greenway Trust to conserve and enhance the region would get technical and planning assistance from the National Park Service.
Examples of previously designated National Heritage Areas include the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, the Erie Canalway National Historic Corridor and the Mississippi Delta National Historic Area.
The Mountains to Sound Greenway would be the first National Heritage Area on the West Coast.