Down on the Farm

Less than a five-minute drive from I-405, Kelsey Creek Farm Park is a hidden gem in the big, booming city

20160629_KelseyCreekFarm_102These days, it seems like Bellevue is growing vertically by the day, but there’s still a place minutes from the bustling freeway that’s the antidote to urban sprawl.

Kelsey Creek Farm Park is an homage to the original Bellevue, the sprawling farmland that became a city. The park features rolling hills, farm animals, walking trails through wetlands, and activities for everyone from the preschooler to the history buff. There’s also the iconic historic barn, built originally from a mail-order kit from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. It harkens back to a different time.

Stop in and see Dixie the Pig, or Fluttershy the Rabbit. The farm’s animals are on display daily, with goats grazing fields and sheep in the pasture. It really is a working farm, with animals living on the property. For the kids, it’s a great way to see up-close animals.

AnnaMarie Solomonson, Kelsey Creek Farm Park program supervisor, said the great thing about Kelsey Creek’s animals is often children’s first experiences in reading cover farm animals. Their first reading experiences cover words like “cow,” “horse,” and “pig.” At Kelsey Creek, they can see the real-life version.

20160629_KelseyCreekFarm_371The animals are out from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, but that may change on holidays and inclement weather.

There are two barns on the property, one of which houses the animals and the other which houses programs and an office. According to the city, the park sees more than 200,000 visitors per year.

The reason the 150-acre park has been able to be preserved is because of a group of citizens in the late 1960s that took a stand and made sure the park would be safe from the development happening in Bellevue.

In the early 1960s, the farm was owned by the Fisher family, who raised Hereford cattle, and the land began to be fenced in by a growing neighborhood. That’s when citizens spoke up.

Now, Kelsey Creek Farm Park is owned by the City of Bellevue and was once the headquarters for the parks and recreation program. It’s now home to many youth programs, including summer camps, as well as a spot for older students to earn community service hours.

Solomonson, who oversees the community services program, said that students get up close and personal with farm work. It’s not an easy job; students are learning to clean animal stalls and more. It’s anything but cushy, she said, but it is rewarding. Solomonson loves her job at the park, where she’s worked for 30 years.

20160629_KelseyCreekFarm_038Kelsey Creek has a rich history. The land was owned by the Hewitt and Lea Logging company from the late 1800s until the purchase by the Dueys in 1921. The Dueys founded Twin Valley Farm, which provided milk, butter, and cream to the Eastside.

The original barn on the property burned in 1933, but was rebuilt within two weeks and is today the animal barn. The second barn, now the education barn, was built later in the 1940s by John Michaels, a subsequent owner.

It was in the Great Depression that the Dueys sold the land to the Haller family but continued their dairy business until it was purchased by Michaels in 1942. He sold the farm to Ray and Nettie Fisher after World War II. In 1954, they built the farmhouse still on the property to this day.

It was the Fishers who were courted by developers, eager to turn the land into housing in the now rapidly expanding city. Land taxes skyrocketed, and the Fishers looked to sell the property.

Thanks to a citizen-led petition, the Fishers sold 80 acres, including the house, barn, and other buildings. The Fishers believed in the vision of their neighbors to create a park, and sold it to the City of Bellevue at a lower price than it would have fetched from developers.

The park continues to serve the city with its trails, programs, up-close-and-personal animal encounters, and its slice of peace away from the hustle and bustle.

Visit the park
The park is located at 410 130th Place S.E., in Bellevue. From I-405, take the S.E. Eighth Street exit. Head east and follow the road through the light at Lake Hills Connector. The road goes through a a residential area. Turn left at 128th Ave. S.E, then turn right at S.E Fourth Place.

If you go
The park is open year-round and has no admission fee. Seasonally, there are classes and volunteer programs.

Get out there, city slicker

Looking for a place to have some farm time? In addition to Kelsey Creek, here are a few places you can go down on the farm for a fall adventure, especially one that includes apples and pumpkins.

Remlinger Farms

This farm has all sorts of activities for the family, including a market, family fun park, and restaurant. Weekends until Oct. 26 is the Fall Harvest Pumpkin Festival. There will be food, fun, and pumpkins. You can U-Pick pumpkins in the farmís fields. There are also animals on hand to visit. 32610 N.E. 32nd St., Carnation. 

21 Acres Farm

If you’re looking to get in touch with the land and involved with farm life, Woodinville’s 21 Acres is a great place to learn. Try one of many classes that utilize produce, visit the market, or walk the land during open hours. You’re likely to see people picking, tending, and celebrating farm culture. 13701 N.E. 171st St., Woodinville.

The Farm at Swan’s Trail

There’s fall fun to be had at The Farm at Swanís Trail. This fall, make it an Eastside spot for choosing the perfect Jack-O-Lantern. Take on a geography challenge and navigate the farm’s Washington State Corn Maze, a 12-acre map of the state with hundreds of real roads, towns, and landmarks. 7301 Rivershore Road, Snohomish. Prices vary by activity.

Fox Hollow Farm

If you’re looking for a farm-themed birthday party or just a fun day trip, check out Fox Hollow Farm. Admission is $10 per person; parking is free. All activities are included in admission except pony rides. Check the calendar for open farm days. 12123 Issaquah Hobart Road S.E., Issaquah.

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