Ruth Kees recalls local land battles

Although she died May 6, 2009, the stories of Ruth Kees, Issaquah’s longtime environmental activist, live on through the Issaquah History Museums’ Oral History Video Project.

  • Monday, December 19, 2011 11:49am
  • News

Skydivers were a common sight in Issaquah during the 26 years Linn Emrich operated the Seattle Sky Sports Club at the Issaquah Skyport. Gliding and ballooning were also popular activities at the field. After the Skyport’s lease expired in 1987

Although she died May 6, 2009, the stories of Ruth Kees, Issaquah’s longtime environmental activist, live on through the Issaquah History Museums’ Oral History Video Project.

Ms. Kees was interviewed in November 2006. At that time she talked about the fight to save the Issaquah Skyport and the effort to stop the Southeast Bypass.

Issaquah Skyport

When Interstate 90 came through the Issaquah Valley, Ruth Kees started the group, Friends of Issaquah Creek, to save the salmon trapped in weirs built by the highway department on the north end of Tiger Mountain.

“But I could see this was going to be a one-person type of thing so I didn’t carry it very far,” she said. “But then other things started developing, and we got more people [involved]. At that time, the Washington Environmental Council had been formed. So I went to form the Issaquah Environmental Council.”

“Then things got so hot around here. It was a case of paying attention to all the local issues.”

One of the issues was the Issaquah Skyport, which was located on the north side of I-90 where the Pickering Place shopping center now stands.

The Skyport was a popular destination for area residents who liked to watch the field’s parachuting and gliding activities.

In 1987 operator Linn Emrich’s lease expired. A bond issue to keep the Skyport was defeated.

Ruth Kees and her husband Dan were among those leading the fight to stop development on the site “because that whole area is a wetlands,” she said. “It may not be a Class 1 wetlands, but it’s a wetland.”

The Kees’ concern was that development would interfere with the natural replenishment of the aquifer. During her interview, Ruth explained what happens when surface water cannot sink into the ground.

“Well, water always goes downhill,” she said. “This part of the valley is elevated above Lake Sammamish, which is a big pool. It shows where the aquifer level is. Because of the development around here the water is no longer absorbed into the ground. Lately, after a rainfall, Lake Sammamish will go up six feet, and all the docks are underwater. And then it goes back down. It’s definitely connected to getting rid of your surface water. You can’t replenish the aquifer [if the ground is covered with impervious surfaces].”

Kees also pointed out that recent flooding in the Issaquah Valley occurred because the ground could not absorb the water fast enough.

The Kees sued to save the Skyport land. The developers waged a countersuit, a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) suit. It turned out to be too much for the Kees, who settled.

“It cost us money, that’s what did us in,” she said. “We were $86,000 in debt and we didn’t see any way out. And they kept processing it. They didn’t let anything die. So finally we saved the 12 acres and Pickering Barn. At least that was given to us.”

Southeast Bypass

For 20 years Kees was involved in the effort to block construction of the Southeast Bypass, which would have connected I-90’s Sunset Interchange with the Issaquah Hobart Road via a route along the base of Tiger Mountain.

The Kees’ interview was conducted before the Issaquah City Council voted to kill the bypass project.

“The reason for having the bypass is to take the traffic off Front Street,” she said. “Now, that’s kind of silly, because we don’t get all that much. We get traffic, but then it goes through. And it is not truck traffic. Trucks are forbidden.

“And you put that bypass in and you’re going to have a whole bunch more cars – and trucks – going down this valley, with more smog in this valley. And with our terrain, we’re going to be a little Los Angeles.

“And the noise pollution! People don’t talk about noise pollution, but it affects the nerves of a person. They’ve subjected animals and people to continuous noise, and their blood pressure went up. And their blood pressure never came down! So it causes physiological changes.

“It would also result in this part of the valley being developed, too.

“I think this is one case where citizen [input made a difference]. There were a whole slew of people that all spoke out against it.”

Jean Cerar is a member of the Issaquah History Museums

More in News

Three candidates aim to fill an open seat on the Issaquah School Board

Suzanne Weaver, Joe Robinson and Layna Crofts compete for the Issaquah School District Director District 5 position.

King County Correctional Facility is located at 500 5th Ave., Seattle. File photo
King County jail’s leaky pipes have national implications

Lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court alleges Aquatherm has been selling faulty pipes.

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

At the Issaquah clinic, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients can receive chemotherapy infusions, nutrition consultations, hematology and other services.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance welcomed into Issaquah with ribbon cutting

After expansion into Poulsbo, National Cancer Institute-designated care center gets underway in Issaquah

Providence Point residents speak out in support for intersection improvements

Issaquah residents supported a traffic light on SE 43rd Street at a CIP public hearing on July 1.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Kennedy
                                Tools4Schools will be having its annual school supplies drive Aug. 12.
ISF and Issaquah Food Clothing Bank partner again for Tools4Schools drive

Tools4School provided more than 900 backpacks to students during the 2018-19 school year.

Photo courtesy of Life Enrichment Options
                                The annual Challenge Race returns to Issaquah for the 22nd year on July 27 at the Issaquah Community Center.
Challenge Race returns to Issaquah

The annual event will take place at the Issaquah Community Center on July 27.

Pete, with his companion Nina, served as “the foundation” of the zoo’s gorilla program when he first arrived in Seattle in 1969. Photo courtesy of Dennis Dow / Woodland Park Zoo
Prop 1 would fund parks, zoos and open spaces

King County voters could approve the renewal and increase of the levy on the August ballot.

Issaquah begins long-term planning for the future of parks

Long-term master plans for three major Issaquah open space areas are in the works.

Most Read