Saving the CHS Memorial Forest

Saving the CHS Memorial Forest

If we’re to save the Cleveland Memorial Forest, we need your help. Right Now. Here’s the story. And one simple thing you can do to help.


During WWII, enterprising CHS students with an eye to the future raised $300 to purchase property for a memorial forest. To make this dream a reality, they planted 10,000 trees and named it the Cleveland High School Memorial Forest, and dedicated it to CHS alumni who lost their lives during the war.

Today, it’s a beautiful 131-acre virgin forest filled with Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, and Western Red Cedar. It’s located northeast of Issaquah, and today it is worth millions of dollars. The property was given to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) as
a perpetual memorial to “the Cleveland boys who lost their lives during the war.” But now, with the school system always in need of money, alumni fear the property will be sold or used for some other purpose.

The CHS Alumni Association has been promoting a plan for SPS to sell the development rights to the property to a land-conservation group so the land can never be developed for any other use. SPS would still own the property, but this single act would likely protect the property in perpetuity from being developed for other uses.

We are making good progress in saving the forest. Should our plan proceed, it would have to be presented to the Seattle School Board for approval. We can best demonstrate broad-based support to preserve the Cleveland Memorial Forest by presenting letters of support from alumni and military-related


We had a busy spring gathering letters of support from alumni and military-related organizations to protect the CHS Memorial Forest. So far, we have received letters of support from the following national organizations, plus 54 from alumni.

  • The American Legion
  • The Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Daughters of the American Revolution
  • American Ex-Prisoners of War
  • The Marine Corps League
  • The World War II Museum
  • Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

The American Legion has 21,000 members in Washington State with over 6,000 members in King County. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has 24,000 members in Washington State, with over 7,000 members in King County. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) has 2,360 members in Washington State with 600 members in King County.


Protecting the CHS Memorial Forest

There has been slow progress in getting Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to sell the development rights of the CHS Memorial Forest to the King County Parks Department (KCPD). This has been our objective – a way of protecting the forest far into the future. Following such a transaction, SPS or any future buyer of the property would not be able to develop the property for any other purpose. I requested from David Kemmett (of KCPD) an update on the negotiations they are having with SPS:

School district administration staff have reviewed our proposal and provided comments. The district is also conducting its own appraisal. We hope to finalize an agreement in the next few months which would then need to go before the school district board for their review and approval.

In a recent email from Mr. Kemmett, he revealed that they, KCPD, would like to have an access trail/road across the north side of the property to connect Duthie Hill Park with Fall City Park West and the Forterra property. [The Forterra Property is a forest conservation group.]

The problem with this plan is that Duthie Hill Park is a mountain bike park and we have already had mountain bikes encroaching on the Memorial Forest and damaging some trails. I haven’t talked to a vast number of people on this subject, but I know of no alumnus who is in favor of having mountain bikes in the Memorial Forest.

I sent an email to Mr. Kemmett requesting that, in the spirit of our first Friends of the Forest meeting in September 2018, the members of the CHSAA forest committee be allowed to review their proposal to SPS. As suspected, they can’t do that in the middle of negotiations. In desperation, I contacted the Fonterra group to see if we could find an ally in them. Unfortunately, even motorbikes or motorized vehicles are not a problem with them.

We arranged a meeting with Mr. Noel Treat, the legal counsel who is representing SPS in the negotiations. Our objective was to convince Mr. Treat that we (CHSAA) are partners with him in the negotiations –– not an adversary. We expressed the following concerns:

  1. We are opposed to bicycles or any other vehicle encroaching into the Memorial Forest.
  2. We recommended that KCPD be responsible for placing barriers across trails to stop bicycles and similar vehicles.
  3. We recommended that the access strip be limited to a 15-foot-wide strip along the north edge of the property to connect Duthie Hill Park with Fall City Park West.
  4. We recommended that KCPD provide a bridge over Canyon Creek to protect fish.
  5. We suggested that SPS use a small fraction of the money they receive to
    • Rebuild the Lyceum (a 30×55 foot shelter destroyed by arson).
    • Develop and implement a Forest Management Plan (see below).

Unless someone comes up with a better idea, it seems that the best we can do is work towards a compromise where KCPD gets a narrow strip for mountain bikes on the north edge of the Memorial Forest, and we get barriers on the south side of the strip to prevent encroachment by bikes into the forested area.

Future Plans

Assuming that the development rights of the Memorial Forest are sold to KCPD, we intend to push SPS to work with CHSAA members to develop and implement a Forest Management Plan. The purpose of such a plan would be the prevention of “our” forest from being contaminated with large quantities of alder trees and salmonberry bushes. We believe a profit could be made by selective harvesting under this plan. The benefit to SPS would be a financially independent forest that is an asset to SPS and the community.

What else is bugging us

What value is there in a memorial to our war heroes if the memorial name doesn’t identify the heroes. SPS continues to refer to “our” memorial as the Cleveland Memorial Forest. Our memorial was not developed to honor President Grover Cleveland. The Cleveland National Forest in California does that. The proper name for our forest should be . . . The Cleveland High School Memorial Forest. We intend to persuade SPS to change the name, and CHSAA should agree to pay for a new sign – a sign made of concrete instead of wood. The last sign was broken up and burned by a homeless person living in the area.

Counting our successes

So far our new (2017) granite monument has not been vandalized, as our old bronze plaques were. Our new monument weighs almost a ton, it is difficult to steal and there is not a great market for used granite. I did apply another coat of anti-graffiti material to the monument in 2019.

CHS alumni should be proud that we are the only high school in the universe that has a memorial forest dedicated to alumni who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces of our government.

John R. Barton
Class of ’54

CHSAA Memorial Forest Ceremony 2019

Memorial Forest Ceremony 2019

The CHS Alumni Association (CHSAA) staged its annual ceremony at the Memorial Forest, as usual on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. We had a good turnout with over 100 students and teachers (4 buses) plus the usual contingent of alumni who show up for the event. According to humanities teacher, Andy Coughran, the students loved the forest, and they liked meeting the alumni and knowing that Cleveland is a big community that goes all the way back to 1927. The students were thankful for the experience and the ability to connect with past generations. The teachers were pleased with the event. Andy said that “The forest and ceremony are very special and we love having our students connect with the alumni.”

The American flag was folded by three students: Isaiah-James Draculan, Kim Nguyen, and Andre Cabebe. Joan Koch, the recipient of the flag, represented ALL mothers who lost sons and daughters who were serving their country in times of war.
This year’s ceremony was a big success in terms of student participation, but it wasn’t without some problems. The honor guard from Camp Murray went to the high school instead of the Forest.

As we do every year, CHSAA provided lunches for everyone and paid for the buses.

A great bunch of students participated in the event. Without being asked, they set up chairs for the event and put them away afterward. The grounds, maintained by caretaker Roger Startzman, were as immaculate after the event as they were before.

Joan Koch was particularly moved by the quiet and respectful attention of the students during the ceremony. Bill Koch was also impressed with the students’ behavior and the effective way the faculty advisors handled the students… they let the students know what was expected of them, and the students were helpful and well behaved. The students seemed to appreciate and understand what the ceremony represented. Kudos to the students and their faculty for pitching in and helping clean up.

As usual, the event was highlighted by a flyover of thestealthfightersquadron,whichoccurredjustasBer- nie Moskowitz finished playing Taps. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see or hear them but we knew they were there. TheyhadflownfromArea51toparticipateintheevent. NextyearwearehopingforaB52flyoversowecansee and hear it.
Following the event, many of alumni went to the Roadhouse Inn & Restaurant in Fall City for lunch. Ev- eryone seemed to enjoy themselves.