Add seven more acres of open space to Mercer Island’s 469 acres and two new Citizens of the Year — Margaret and Kenneth Quarles.
The couple was recognized by the Mercer Island City Council Feb. 5 for contributions to Mercer Island parks and open space. For a fraction of its market value, seven of their undeveloped acres west of East Mercer Way in the 6600 block and adjacent to Pioneer Park were sold to the city. The Quarles also transferred 1.57 acres in the 6500 block of East Mercer Way to the city in 2002.
This combined 8.57 acres now is officially named the “Engstrom Open Space,” honoring Margaret’s father, Oscar, who originally purchased the land. City officials say the pristine property is suited for recreational trails and nature enjoyment in a ravine habitat setting with second-growth trees, wetlands, an eagle perch and lake views. A deed restriction stipulates the land can be used only for parks and recreation, according to the city attorney.
While no time frame for development has been set, Pete Mayer, director of parks and open spaces, expects Engstrom Open Space projects might be addressed in 2008-2009, after planning, topographic, soil and vegetation assessments. One informal trail from East Mercer Way to Pioneer Park already is in public use on the 2002 portion of the Quarles’ land conveyance.
“With the amount of development on the Island, only small parcels remain for more open space opportunities,” said Mayer. “The generosity of the Quarrels to help conserve this valuable asset is extraordinary.”
Mayer adds that several of Mercer Island’s now-476 acres of parks and open spaces were acquired from citizens, such as several street-end parks fronting the lake, Slater Park, willed to the city by Harry and Loretta Slater, and Clise Park on Island Crest Way and Southeast 40th Street, to name a few.
Margaret Engstrom Quarles has spent summers or lived on the Island 80-some years. Ken Quarles, who retired from the Alaska Steamship Company many years ago, is catching up with her. The couple married here in 1961 and took up life in the family estate off East Mercer Way.
The original 10-acre parcel was purchased in 1925 as the Engstrom’s summer country home, enjoyed by parents Oscar and Hilda and their children. Margaret recalls summers horseback-riding over an “old rickety wood bridge” to get the horse shoed in Bellevue, and walking six miles to Roanoke Dock to meet her ferry-commuting father. There were beach fires, swimming across the lake and sailing off shore at the summer place.
Margaret officially grew up on Queen Anne Hill - except for her tenting summers on the island waterfront. Oscar Engstrom built the year-round home here in 1955.
“Dad was in the millwork business - actually did the work for the original Olympic Hotel — so there’s lots of paneling and woodwork here,” says Margaret, who’s almost 92. The Quarles’ still reside in this home on more than an acre of waterfront east of East Mercer Way.
It was their upper seven acres they recently sold to the City of Mercer Island for just $300,000. At the present rate of commercial development, this parcel could have brought anywhere from $700,000 to $2 million per raw acre - where as many as 14 or more new homes could have sprouted, estimates John Deely, local Coldwell Banker Bain real estate broker.
“We don’t want to make much of this,” say the Quarles. “We’re just happy to see it under the city’s care so the people can enjoy it. We’ve had such a wonderful life on Mercer Island.”
Kenneth and Margaret Quarles are the city council members’ unanimous choice for 2006 Mercer Island Citizens of the Year. Since 1990, the council has recognized outstanding citizen efforts for the greater good of Mercer Island. They are:
1990 – Barbara Sweir and Phil Flash
1991 – John Nelson
1992 – Dr. Floyd Short
1993 – Anna Matheson and Delores Erchinger
1994 – Pam Eakes
1995 – John Steding
1996 – Fay Whitney
1997 – Pat Braman
1998 – MI Clergy Association: Bill Clements, Woody Carlson, Paul Fauske, Wynton Dunford, David Rose, Lisa Gelber, Richard Johnson, John Bowman, Carla Berkedal, Randal Gardner, Jack Olive, Eric Newberg, Jeff Holland, Michael Bush, Frederic Harder, Susan Price, Dale Sewall, Jean Davis, John Fellows, Kimbrough Besheer and Marlow Schoop.
1999 - Airport Noise Advisory Steering Committee: Ira Appelman, Charlie Barb, Jim Gilchrist, Carol Heltzel, Tom Heltzel, Lorelei Herres, Tom Hildebrandt, Elizabeth Huber, Francoise Martin , Maxine Misselwitz, Ted Misselwitz, Phil Ohringer, Fran Ohringer, Kevin Peck, Sue Stewart, Nick Vedder
2000 - Don Cohen
2001 - Eugene Ferguson
2002 - Jan Deveny
2003 - Myra Lupton
2004 - Aubrey Davis
2005 - Ben Wolfe
2006 - Margaret and Kenneth Quarles