About Friends

The Friends of the Hidden River began as a small group of environmental educators, mostly located in the school districts on the northeast side of Lake Washington.  These teachers, many of whom became members of Friends, were interested in improving the breadth and depth of education in local environmental issues in Washington's schools as well as in the Puget Sound community.  If we were to name one person that actually brought the nascent group together, it would be Lexi Taylor.

The group coalesced in late 2002 when King County proposed siting a new wastewater treatment facility in the north King County/South Snohomish County area.  The area was the state's most rapidly growing community and was projected to need more wastewater treatment to protect the public health by 2011. 

As a result of this major capital project being placed in the community, environmental mitigation monies were available to cities and groups with worthy environment projects.  The group believed, and still does,  that the best mitigation is education.  Thus the idea of placing an environmental education and community center on the grounds of the new treatment facility came alive. 

The Friends, called the Brightwater Teacher Task Force at first, submitted their idea to both Executive Ron Sims of King County and Executive Bob Drewell of Snohomish County in 2003.  Each Executive deemed the idea worthy of further investigation and asked the Task Force to develop an initial proposal describing the project.   The proposal received very positive reviews and the Task Force was asked to go out and see how  the proposal would be received in the community.

In late 2003 through 2004, members of the Task Force went out in the community and region, actively seeking support for their proposal.  

The proposal was positively received through a large majority of the community.  Eventually the team garnered the support of over 60 organizations and prominent community leaders for the proposal.  Along the way the Task Force revised the proposal, eventually including 13 addenda to the original report.

With this overwhelming support, the proposal was able to compete favorably against the other proposals being sought.  Consequently, in 2005 King County selected the Environmental Education and Community Center as one of the proposals to be funded at $5.2M. Thank you King County Executive Ron Sims.  As with all good news in this project, there was also more work to be done was the allotted funds were only enough to construct the shell and core of the project.  Thus the Friends had their work cut out for them - securing the remaining capital funding.

In 2005 the Task Force reorganized into the 501(c)(3) non profit that is now known as the Friends of the Hidden River.

During the next six years Friends staff worked tirelessly with our supporters to raise funds for the Center project.  During this time Friends was able to raise over $1.25M matching funds for the Center.  The Washington State Legislature provided a series of Community grants, thanks to help from our supporters and in the State Legisture. These monies were used for a variety of design and construction projects, allowing the Center to be rated as one of the very first USGBC LEED Platinum energy efficient structures in the Pacific Northwest.

Our final two grants were from the Norcliffe Foundation and Snohomish PUD - Bonneville Environmental Foundation.  These were used to build out the Water Conservation Lab (Norcliffe) to design and install locally made solar panels over the Lab walkway and place a Solar Education Kiosk for Exhibit Hall. (SNOPud & BEF).

Throughout the entire time the Friends team worked as partners with King County, Methun Architects, CH2MHill, Lehrman Cameron studio, NatureVision, and Snohomish PUD to fund, design, build and launch what is becoming an incredible environmental resource to the dual county area. Full funding for the Brightwater Center project didn't come available until early in 2010

Key local supporters during this journey were too numerous to name, however Eastside Audubon, Woodinville Rotary and all five of the neighboring school districts were instrumental in getting the Center to reach its full potential.

Since then the Friends have been busy designing and delivering a cutting edge STEM, environmental and leadership camp that's called the Ground to Sound STEM Environmental Challenge camp.  This very successful series of camps began in the summer 2012.  In 2014 Friends Interns documented the philosophy, highlights and some of the camp challenges in the video shown below.

Recently Friends designed the multi layered Leaf Detectives presentation to help King County celebrate Ecotober at Brightwater Center.