History of Cleveland Memorial Forest


At the height of World War 11, in the early 1940s, Cleveland students sought a way to memorialize classmates who had died in service to our country; to that end, they contributed over $500, including gifts from the graduating classes of 1943 and 1944, to purchase some land. At a county tax auction in July 1944, Vice Principal Ray Imus bid on a quarter section of logged off land east of Issaquah on the Issaquah Fall City Road. When other bidders learned that the students hoped to create a memorial forest to commemorate for our fallen classmates, no one bid against Imus and the land was acquired for $300. The deed was issued to Principal Kenneth Selby who subsequently granted the property to the Seattle School District by quit claim in December 1944.

The Forest, off the Issaquah Fall City Road, consists of 131 acres of second growth timber, including Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar. Inviting trails cut through the lush vegetation and a salmon spawning stream finds protection there. This beautiful memorial to fallen classmates serves as a striking contrast to the horrific war that inspired its origin.


During the 40s and 50s, Cleveland High School (CHS) students continued to contribute to the Memorial Forest fund as Forestry Club members, teachers, and students traveled there by car and sometimes chartered Trailways buses with their axes, shovels, and other tools from home. They cleared trails, brushed out and drained old logging roads, installed fencing, mapped the site, and according to Imus' account, planted over 10,000 Douglas fir and cedar, many of which were donated by the Snoqualmie National Forest and other organizations.

As time passed, visits to the Forest and work parties diminished. The memory of the Forest and its purpose drifted from the focus of the school and district administrators and was rarely mentioned to Cleveland High School students in subsequent years.

In 1967, that changed with the federal funding of the Project Interchange Program. A program designed to help potential drop outs and disadvantaged young men by alternating school time with work days at the Forest. Participants were minimum wage for their work. Project supervisor Dick Case, CHS '49, directed an impressive number of projects: all of the buildings, including the A frame (designed by CHS architectural drawing students), the storage shed, the two room house, and the covered pavilion containing the large round fire pit were constructed between 1968 70 using mostly donated and "scrounged" materials. An old double portable was moved to the site, plumbed, and converted to restrooms. A septic system was installed, the well was drilled, bridges were built and the parking lot and driveway were cleared by the student work crews. When Project Interchange ended and the funding expired, work at the forest ceased.

In 1996 the alumni board applied for and was awarded the Knoll Lumber Company's 1997 model home, which would have replaced the unsafe, dilapidated caretaker's cottage at the Forest. Because of the deadline, the financial contingencies involved, and our limited treasury, Coney suggested to the SSD legal counsel that both sides work together on the project "without prejudice" since it would benefit the Forest. When the SSD lawyer refused our proposal, the board regretfully declined the award.


Metal shop students had made a large bronze plaque bearing the names of the twentynine CHS students killed in WWII which was affixed to a huge rock at the end of a 1000 yard trail. (Many of us have hiked to the Memorial Rock to read the names and acknowledge our debt to them.) Finally, in April, 1971, the Forest was formally dedicated as a living memorial to those who had paid the ultimate price for their country.


During the 70s and 80s, Tony Nogales, CHS '47, was the Seattle School District's field trip coordinator. To encourage teachers' use of the Forest as an educational resource he provided a comprehensive guide to the woodland, yet it continued to be under utilized. Perhaps because of its distance from Seattle, or teachers felt unqualified to act as guides, or the amenities were too rustic ¬whatever the reasons, over the decades relatively few classes have visited the Memorial Forest. Nogales often expressed frustration at his inability to persuade the district to provide free transportation there since chartered buses represented a significant expense to school budgets.

A few years ago, Tom Hudson CHS '60, an environmental studies instructor at Garfield High School, started taking his classes to the Forest as part of a survival course and to study plant life. They made some needed repairs but the extent of the neglect and the dilapidated buildings required more extensive work and materials. In 1995, responding to the request of School Board members Linda Harris and Ellen Roe, City Councilmember Sue Donaldson and County Councilmember Larry Phillips were instrumental in procuring about $150,000 in federal, county, and city grants. The funds were used to restore basic facilities such as the pavilion, restrooms, and trails and to develop a Forest curriculum.

In 1997, Tom Hudson conducted teacher workshops in forest ecology and continues to supervise repair work at the Forest involving students, parents, teachers, and alumni. The restoration work and training sessions have encouraged an increasing number of elementary and middle school teachers scheduled field trips for their classes. A two dollar usage fee per student goes to the Alliance for Education, an organization that manages donations for the SSD and maintains the Forest's fund.

This August a group of CHS students and staff, led by teachers Bianca Linder and Karen Haggard, will camp there as part of a three day summer program of plant identification, forest studies, and survival skills. To encourage increased use of the Forest by CHS, the alumni association is contributing $1,000 towards the program's expenses.


From time to time, it was rumored that the SSD might sell the Forest whose worth has grown to an estimated $15,000,000 or more. In 1994, newspaper articles quoted school officials who suggested installing a challenge course there to produce revenue through rental to outside groups. There was growing alarm among some alumni from the 1940s and 50s that the character of the memorial could change at the whim of the district, or that a financially strapped bureaucracy might even dispose of it. On one occasion, CHS staff members urged a visiting alum to unite the alumni and "do something" about the rumored threats and the Forest's deterioration. In 1995, another alum, Lois Allan Olson, '45, succeeded in raising $716 through the sale of Forest logo T shirts which enabled over 100 CHS students three busloads to visit and do some work there.


Meanwhile, concerned alumni were galvanized into action; they gathered and exchanged Forest data and met to consider ways to ensure its future. Some spent days at the school district archives scrutinizing old documents and copying pertinent information. It was soon apparent that a larger organization would be more effective, and thus was bom the Cleveland High School Alumni Association, in 1995. The charter members, all aging alums, shared a heartfelt need to preserve and protect OUR forest as a living memorial to the CHS students who had died during World War 11, and those who later died in Korea and Vietnam. In fact, that is the primary purpose of our association as stated in our bylaws. See (Annual Trek News Article)


A dozen alums attended the May, 1995 meeting of a Seattle School District (SSD) committee to discuss the Forest, along with representatives from the city and county. At the meeting, attorney Byron Coney proposed transferring title to a trust The Cleveland Memorial Forest Foundation to ensure its preservation as a permanent memorial. Although his proposal invited SSD participation, School Board members and staff were not supportive. After the district rejected his proposal, Coney filed a lawsuit on behalf of several alums from the 1940s to "quiet title" or settle the question of management and control once and for all, through the courts. The case is scheduled for trial in December, 1999; Coney continues to provide pro bono legal services for the lawsuit.

Forest management is currently under the jurisdiction of the SSD through its Cleveland Memorial Forest and Environmental Center Oversight Committee comprised of representatives from the School Board, SSD administrators and staff, local government, students, and three CHS alums who share two votes of the total fifteen. If Coney's group wins the lawsuit and title to the Forest is transferred to a non profit foundation, representatives from forestry, business, and higher education as well as the SSD and alumni association would all have a voice in its management and its preservation as a memorial.


The Forest is bounded by two King County parks, Duthie Hill to the east and Fall City to the west. In 1995 the county proposed that the SSD enter into a joint use agreement with them to operate and coordinate maintenance of the three sites. They recommended that " ... Fall City Park should serve as an extension of and buffer for the Cleveland Memorial Forest." One of their proposed goals is to " maximize public benefit by coordinating the stewardship and use of the three sites. " (emphasis added) Although the discussion of a joint use agreement is on hold, a number of our alums are concerned that in the future the Forest could be absorbed by the county's park system and that the sensitive ecosystem will not survive the pressures of additional use by the public.

I. Law Suit

February 1, 2000, the Superior court settles the matter of who owns the forest.The Seattle School District will continue to hold the land deed. See Seattle Times Article

Other articles involving the Forest. Link 1. Link 2.Link 3.Link 4. Link 5 Link 6 Link 7 Link 8 Link 9

Superior Court Appeal (PDF)

Superior Cour Judgement(PDF)

Quit Claim Deed(PDF)


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