The views from atop Cowiche Knoll stretch out in all directions, overlooking Yakima to the mountains and ridges beyond.
On a clear day, the snowy peaks of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier are visible to hikers, mountain bikers and yes, even occasionally snowshoers on the Cowiche Uplands trails. It’s an experience the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy wants to preserve by purchasing 245 acres of shrub steppe, nonprofit officials said.
Executive Director Celisa Hopkins said the conservancy has been interested in buying the land for decades, but development concerns became more urgent when Borton Fruit bought more than 200 acres of adjacent property in 2017. Negotiations with primary landowner Steve Steer and also Shawna Bartlett eventually turned into a deal for CCC to buy the property for $1.048 million, its assessed market value.
Now the organization just needs to finish raising the money, which includes $200,000 for long-term stewardship.
Most users probably pay little attention to the “Leaving the public recreation” area sign along the historic Jeep trail as it bisects the east edge of the property, since the Steer family allows the public to freely pass through along at least eight trails via 20 different entry points. But a house abutting the south edge of the parcel serves as a reminder of how development could potentially disrupt connectivity in the CCC’s most popular area, where Hopkins said some 30,000 people passed through the Scenic Drive trailhead counters last year.
“It’s such an asset for this community,” Hopkins said. “I hear from medical professionals, Realtors, when they’re enticing people to come to Yakima, they bring them here as one of Yakima’s treasures.”
Borton’s property remains open to the public as well, marked by white PVC pipes sticking up at intervals along the north-south boundary on the west side. The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy manages most of the area’s trails, including those on property that belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, the primary landowner in the area.
The CCC’s Uplands capital campaign began in last November. The organization has already raised nearly $640,000 from around 35 donors as of Friday. That leaves about $600,000 to be collected before the November deadline.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information on where the funding will go.