The Green Loop: Overview and Status

Updated February 2023

Just want to make a donation? It’s OK to skip to the end and read the rest later. Use this link for the overview video from our April 21, 2021 meeting


The Finn Hill Green Loop is a long-term project to connect Finn Hill’s parks and green spaces into a continuous woodland pathway that will circle the crown of Finn Hill and ultimately connect to nearby parks and trails such as Juanita Beach, the Cross Kirkland Corridor and the Burke Gilman Trail in Bothell. The loop will be not only a local asset but a regional one as well, expanding the reach of existing Finn Hill parks and adding to a network of trails linking municipalities on the Eastside. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Conceptual drawing of Finn Hill Green Loop, as shown in Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan (incorporated in Kirkland’s Comprehensive Plan)

While the Green Loop vision is ambitious, the principal building blocks are already in place. St. Edward Park, Big Finn Hill Park, O.O. Denny Park and Juanita Woodlands Park occupy the western side of Finn Hill. The eastern and southern flanks of the hill are dotted with woodlands on steep slopes and ravines, many of which have already been dedicated to open space; Juanita Heights Park on the southeastern summit of the hill is a keystone for connecting the neighborhood to Juanita Beach and the parkland that rings the shores of Juanita Bay. (Figure 2.)

Figure 2 Satellite view of Finn Hill. Note parks on western side of hill and dedicated open space parcels on eastern side outlined in red

Our immediate objective is to acquire, or negotiate easements over, the remaining vacant land on Finn Hill that is critical to connecting these parks and dedicated open spaces. In the decades to come, as residential properties undergo redevelopment, the City of Kirkland can fill in gaps by arranging for easements or land acquisitions on an opportunistic basis.

The City has already endorsed the Green Loop by incorporating it into its Comprehensive Plan. It has partnered with the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance (FHNA) to apply for Conservation Futures Trust funds for the Green Loop project; some of these funds have already been spent, with matching contributions from the City and FHNA, to expand Juanita Height Park to create the Billy Goat Trail (see below).

The King County park levy that the voters approved in 2019 also includes funding that is dedicated specifically to land acquisitions for the Finn Hill Green Loop. The park levy proceeds are expected to amount to $2.4 million between 2021 and 2026. The City will administer the application of these funds to property purchases, and it foresees creating a master plan for the Green Loop beginning in 2022. But the City and FHNA both recognize that it’s important to seize opportunities to buy critical open space even before the master plan can be completed.

Acquisition opportunities

FHNA is presently pursuing the acquisition of parcels needed to protect O.O. Denny Creek near Big Finn Hill Park and to complete a trail from Juanita Heights Park to Juanita Beach (the Billy Goat Trail). We also want to protect parts of parcels on the eastern side of Finn Hill and in the Holmes Point area (on the western side of the hill) using conservation easements, enabling the landowners who grant the easements to reduce their local property taxes and claim federal income tax deductions. (Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Acquisition opportunities shown in red circles and conservation easement candidates shown in blue circles.

Billy Goat Trail

The Billy Goat Trail is the first phase of the Green Loop. It will connect Juanita Heights Park on the southeastern shoulder of Finn Hill (aka Goat Hill) to Juanita Bay. (Figure 4.) Working with FHNA, the City obtained $535,000 in grants from King County’s Conservation Futures Trust (CFT) to expand Juanita Heights Park to the south, toward the bay. In 2018, the City completed purchases of parcels in what is now the center of the park and its new southern border. These acquisitions cost $620,00; CFT funds covered half of the price, the City funded another $260,000, and FHNA contributed $50,000 (raised from Finn Hill residents).

This year, FHNA signed a purchase agreement to acquire a small parcel near the base of Goat Hill that is essential to creating a trail from the bay to Juanita Heights Park. FHNA is now talking to City staff about arranging for the City to buy this parcel. FHNA and City staff are also discussing an opportunity to purchase properties, now on the market, that lie between this parcel and Juanita Heights Park. With these acquisitions, the trail will be complete. We can then focus on negotiating open space easements over vacant woodland properties sited to the north of Juanita Heights Park and to the southwest.

Figure 4. Juanita Heights Park and Billy Goat Trail (prospective route of trail shown in orange).

Big Finn Hill Park expansion/Denny Creek preservation: During 2020-22, FHNA worked with the City of Kirkland and King County to arrange for the acquisition of two important parcels of open space along Juanita Drive that border Big Finn Hill Park and straddle the upper portion of O.O. Denny Creek.

Figure 5. Winski and Kosalos/Zeitlin properties adjacent to Big Finn Hill Park

Using funds donated by Finn Hill residents for the Green Loop, FHNA signed a contract in 2020 to buy the Winksi lot, a 0.8 acre parcel on Juanita Drive and 133rd Place. Shortly thereafter, the City of Kirkland agreed to accept an assignment of the purchase agreement and closed the transaction in 2021, using Green Loop funds that were made available to the City from the County parks levy. At the same time, FHNA began discussions with Jim Koslalos and Dev Zeitlin, the owners of two parcels, covering a little more than 6 acres, to the immediate north. The owners were eager to preserve those parcels as green space even though they had been approached by developers who wanted to build 17 homes on the land. FHNA contacted King County Council member Rod Dembowski, whose district covers Finn Hill (and who previously championed dedicating County park levy funds for the Green Loop). He was able to assemble funding from several County sources to complete a purchase from Jim Kosalos and Dev Zeitlin in two tranches – one in 2021 and the second in 2022. The County is now developing a plan to integrate the Kosalos/Zeitlin parcels into Big Finn Hill Park.

Conservation easements: In October, FHNA used Green Loop funds donated by neighborhood residents to purchase a small parcel that will serve as a trailhead on the eastern side of Finn Hill’s Green Loop (Furlong parcel, Figure 6). This parcel borders lots to the north held by other property owners that have obtained local property tax reductions in exchange for dedicating their land to open space use (per King County’s Public Benefit Rating System or PBRS) and through zoning changes. The parcel is also near open space tracts owned by the City. We view this small lot as the linchpin to a trail system on the eastern side of Finn Hill, starting from Juanita Heights Park and extending north to Simonds Road.

Figure 6: Furlong parcel – conservation easement candidate in eastern Finn Hill.

FHNA is also pursuing easements over wooded parts of properties on the western side of Finn Hill, in the Holmes Point Neighborhood that would protect a contiguous natural space from the lakeside to the summit of the hill. The easements would be bordered by tracts that are already dedicated as open space. The city has included pedestrian trails in the vicinity of this area as part of its citywide connections project under the policy of improving the safety of walking in Kirkland, and FHNA believes that easements over the wooded areas of these properties will protect the natural state of this critical area that sits between O. O. Denny Park to the south in Holmes Point, Big Finn Hill county park to the east and St. Edward State Park to the north.

An important element in our efforts to negotiate open space easements is the ability for landowners to qualify for federal income tax deductions available for grants of conservation easements to land conservancies. In 2021, FHNA’s plans either to qualify itself as a land conservancy or to partner with an established land conservancy to manage open space.

Donations needed

We are excited about and deeply grateful for support that our Green Loop efforts have received from the City of Kirkland and from King County. But we would not have earned this support without strong backing from Finn Hill residents. 

Your contributions to the Green Loop project over the years has shown elected officials that you want to see this vision realized. As importantly, the funds you have contributed have enabled us to put deposits on properties that we need for the Green Loop, giving us time to work with our local government partners to arrange for the final acquisition of those properties.

To continue our progress, we’ll need both additional governmental assistance and continued community support. We can’t assume that public agencies will underwrite the Green Loop completely. We have to finance some of this project ourselves. 

So, please contribute to our Green Loop efforts here on our donation page. Your donations are tax deductible and they will be applied to ensure that the Finn Hill neighborhood will be green, healthy and inviting for generations to come.