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Protecting Our Natural Heritage from Mountains to Sound

Posted by seattle

The Mountains to Sound Greenway is a special place. Evergreen trees still blanket the hillsides and valleys. The air is still fresh; the water is still clean. Cougars still pad through deep woods. Even though millions of people live here, in the hundred miles from Seattle to Ellensburg, these things remain true.

How? Not by accident.

In 1990, it was increasingly clear that rapid population growth threatened the character of the region. Unchecked, one could easily see solid development along Interstate 90, stretching out of Seattle and through the Cascade Mountains. That’s why a small group of people came together. They decided that nature and economic growth should—and could— coexist. That group, acting as catalyst and convener, became the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

If you’ve ever hiked up Rattlesnake Mountain, picnicked in the soft grass at Marymoor Park, felt the spray of Snoqualmie Falls on your face, or enjoyed fresh veggies from Full Circle Farm – you’ve experienced the Greenway. You’ve also benefited from 20 years of conservation, thoughtful and collaborative development, and lots of hard work.

Since 1990, Mountains to Sound Greenway has conserved 215,000 acres of land. They’ve gotten 21,000 kids out into the field, and they engage upwards of 5,000 volunteers in restoration efforts every year.  But the real magic is in how they do their work, setting the table for an unlikely coalition – environmentalists and timber companies; developers and farmers; federal and state agencies; cities and counties; nonprofits and businesses – all rallying around a common place and a shared vision for the future.*

Mountains to Sound Greenway Hikers

How SVP Fits In

SVP has partnered with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust since 2010. They have already achieved tremendous success in the Greenway, but with 60 board members, 4,000 volunteers, and new people wanting to get involved every week, they know they need more structure and more sophisticated systems to get to the next level. Here are some of the ways they are engaging SVP on this journey.

Matching Intuition with Strategy

Lead Partner, Arlene Levy is a planner – and the perfect accomplice for Executive Director, Cynthia Welti, who Arlene describes as “a powerful and intuitive leader.” In her work with Mountains to Sound Greenway, Arlene has seen them move from a very spontaneous approach to one that is much more planned and strategic. But it isn’t a one-way street. “I receive more than I give,” says Arlene. “I want to put more energy into it because I’m getting so much out of it.”

As for Cynthia … “I have a wonderful relationship with our Lead Partner, Arlene Levy.  She has quickly become a Greenway insider with whom I share issues and rely on for advice. Her expertise has proven invaluable.”

Engaging Diverse Stakeholders

Managing a 60–person board and a coalition of diverse stakeholders is no easy task. Mountains to Sound Greenway knew that they needed a system to keep people engaged. That’s where SVP volunteer Meredith Shank came in. In 95 hours of research, surveys and interviews she mapped the Mountains to Sound Greenway board and integrated that information into the organization’s database. Within 12 hours of completing the project, the staff was using it to reach out to board members about opportunities that matched their specific interests.

Creating a Map to Invite Participation

“We were tremendously successful without a lot of conventional planning,” explains Cynthia. However, a lot of that success is based on a core group of people who have worked together for a long time. Without a solid plan, it’s difficult to engage new people in the Mountains to Sound Greenway’s mission, because they can’t see where they fit in. With guidance from SVP, their new strategic plan is clear, public, and in action. “Our prior strategic plan was like redecorating,” says Cynthia. “In this version, we’re building up from the studs.”

Finding a Role for SVP’s Youngest Members

SVP’s Family Service Group has volunteered with Mountains to Sound Greenway for years.  Catch a glimpse of one of their projects.

Learn more about Mountains to Sound Greenway and find ways to get involved >>


*Text adapted from Mountains to Sound Greenway’s 20 Year Anniversary Report.


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