Better Ground

SNOQUALMIE SUCCESS STORY

In 1990, Snoqualmie started growing from a small town of 1,546 residents, adding a master planned community on Snoqualmie Ridge with rapid population growth to 14,121 residents by 2020.  Over 1,200 acres of native forest land were retained as part of the development, and thousands of trees were planted along new streets and in new parks.  Dedicated city resources to manage all the newly planted trees and native forest remnants did not begin in earnest until 2010.  

In twelve years, the city built an urban forestry program from the ground up, using state funding for an initial round of resource assessment and strategic planning. From this foundation, the city hired staff, established community and non-profit partnerships, and identified a stable funding source on the way to becoming an exemplary urban forestry program.

Below is a timeline mapping Snoqualmie’s program development and evolution from its humble beginning.

2010 – Program Initiation
City hires first certified arborist, becomes a Tree City USA
Snoqualmie committed to building an urban forestry program by hiring its first certified arborist and becoming a Tree City USA.
2010 – Program Initiation
2011-2014 - MAPPING | ANALYSIS
Street Tree Inventory & Tree Canopy Assessment
In this period, the city was awarded grant funding from WA DNR Urban and Community Forestry to conduct three resource assessment projects, a foundational step in understanding Snoqualmie’s tree resource.
2011-2014 - MAPPING | ANALYSIS
2014 – PLANNING
Urban Forest Strategic Plan
The city again received a grant from WA DNR to develop an Urban Forest Strategic Plan. This plan laid out 30 strategies towards developing a comprehensive urban forest program to steward the City’s extensive urban forest. The strategic plan was adopted by Snoqualmie’s Mayor and Council – and initial steps towards implementation were completed quickly, including creating an urban forester staff position in January 2015, and developing an inter-department “tree team.”
2014 – PLANNING
2016 - MAPPING | ANALYSIS
Tree Canopy Assessment
Snoqualmie conducted another Tree Canopy Assessment to compare against the 2012 dataset and determine if early tree preservation and planting efforts were enough to offset the impact of development.
2016 - MAPPING | ANALYSIS
2016 - CO-DESIGN | STEWARDSHIP
Community Stewardship Program
The city received technical assistance from the King Conservation District (King CD) to begin a community stewardship program for Snoqualmie’s forestland.
2016 - CO-DESIGN | STEWARDSHIP
2017 – PLANNING | STEWARDSHIP
Green Snoqualmie Partnership
With the culmination of King CD’s technical assistance and input from many partners, a 20-year Forest Management and Stewardship Plan was developed and the Green Snoqualmie Partnership formally launched; 1,700 volunteer hours were recorded in the first full year of the program.
2017 – PLANNING | STEWARDSHIP
2017 – POLICY
Trees and Stormwater Utility ordinance adopted
As part of the King County – Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C) work with King CD, an ordinance template was developed for use in municipalities to designate urban forestry as an appropriate use of stormwater utility funds. Snoqualmie adopted and codified this Ordinance, paving the way for the urban forestry program to be funded through the stormwater utility.
2017 – POLICY
2019 – FUNDING
Hired one full-time staff member to meet the growing needs of the urban forestry program
2019 – FUNDING
2016 - POLICY & PLANNING
Natural Infrastructure Assessment
The city partnered again with King CD to support the development of a Natural Infrastructure Assessment to quantify the stormwater benefit of Snoqualmie’s trees in order to pursue stormwater utility funding.
2016 - POLICY & PLANNING
2020 - FUNDING
Urban Forest Improvements Program
At the conclusion of the Natural Infrastructure Assessment and informed by a recent utility rate study, the Mayor and City Council approved a funding increase as part of the 2021-2022 biennial budget for Snoqualmie’s urban forestry program.
2020 - FUNDING
The Future – WHAT’S NEXT for the City of Snoqualmie?
With the connection between urban forestry and stormwater established, Snoqualmie is on the verge of launching a new combined department in 2023 – the Urban Forestry and Stormwater Division. This department will add staff to maintain the city’s stormwater infrastructure – both green and gray.

Since most of the work outlined in the first Urban Forest Strategic Plan has been accomplished and sound program foundations are set, Snoqualmie intends to update the Plan soon with new strategies focused on further development of the program. Future work toward enhanced stewardship includes raising the standard of care for Snoqualmie’s street and park trees and updating the city’s tree ordinance of 2010.

In this period, the city was awarded grant funding from WA DNR Urban and Community Forestry to conduct three resource assessment projects, a foundational step in understanding Snoqualmie’s tree resource:

  • 2011 – An initial round of street tree inventory for arterial streets and major roads.  
  • 2012 – Canopy cover assessment providing a baseline of the City’s tree canopy cover to measure the impacts of development balanced against new tree planting and forest restoration.
  • 2014 – Completed a second tree inventory, adding neighborhood streets to the previous inventory – moving towards a complete tree inventory in rights-of-way.

Snoqualmie conducted another Tree Canopy Assessment to compare against the 2012 dataset and determine if early tree preservation and planting efforts were enough to offset the impact of development. Through data collection and analysis, it was discovered that Snoqualmie’s canopy cover percentage increased from 43.7% in 2011 to 46.9% in 2015, an early indicator of the program’s success.

The city received technical assistance from the King Conservation District (King CD) to begin a community stewardship program for Snoqualmie’s forestland. A wide group of partners, including the Snoqualmie Tribe, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, The Snoqualmie Ridge Residential Owner’s Association (ROA), and Forterra met at the start of the project and helped shape a community-wide stewardship plan. Collaborative on-the-ground stewardship activities with these partners began in Fall 2016. 

The city partnered again with King CD to support the development of a Natural Infrastructure Assessment to quantify the stormwater benefit of Snoqualmie’s trees in order to pursue stormwater utility funding. This assessment quantified several urban forest benefits, including stormwater retention and water quality.  Through this assessment, the connection between trees and stormwater was made clear – Snoqualmie’s urban forest provides $5.8-$7.1 million annually in stormwater retention benefits.

At the conclusion of the Natural Infrastructure Assessment and informed by a recent utility rate study, the Mayor and City Council approved a funding increase as part of the 2021-2022 biennial budget for Snoqualmie’s urban forestry program. This included the creation of the Urban Forest Improvements Program, a new Capital Improvement Program allocating $200,000 annually toward street and park tree replacement.