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King County purchases Juanita Beach in April 1956.

HistoryLink.org Essay 4018 : Printer-Friendly Format

During the first week of April 1956, King County purchases Juanita Beach from resort owner Leslie Forbes at a cost of $46,650. Negotiations to turn the popular beach into a county park have been underway since 1955.

Early History

In 1876, Dorr and Eliza Forbes homesteaded the Juanita Beach property. In 1916, during the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, lake waters were lowered by 8.8 feet, which exposed an expansive sand bed on the Forbes’s waterfront property. Soon, swimmers and sun lovers swarmed to beach for summertime fun.

In 1920, Dorr and Eliza’s son Leslie opened a concession counter with his business partner Ed Nelson. Within a few years, the popularity of the beach allowed Forbes and his wife Alicia to expand his business into a successful resort. In 1931, the Washington Outing Resorts’ Association gave Juanita Beach an award as the most modern, cleanest, most convenient outing resort in the Northwest.

By the 1950s, Leslie and his wife Alicia were ready to retire. Not wanting to see developers take over Juanita Beach, the Juanita Improvement Club, in conjunction with the Federated Clubs of the East Side, spearheaded a campaign to turn the resort into a county park.

A Park for Everyone

King County Commissioner Dean McLean was keen on the deal, but originally balked at Forbes’ asking price of $60,000. After months of negotiations, a price was agreed upon and King County took over ownership of the property. In 1957, King County bought the nearby Shady Beach and Sandy Beach properties, and created Juanita Beach Park.

Juanita Beach Park continued to be a popular place for parents and children, especially on hot summer days. But in 2001, a $52 million general fund shortfall led to the closure of 20 parks throughout the county. Juanita Beach Park was one of them.

In 2002, the King County Council gave approval to transfer the ownership of the park to the City of Kirkland (Juanita had been annexed to Kirkland in 1988.) On November 5, 2002, Kirkland voters agreed and voted for a slight property tax increase to pay for ownership, maintenance, and improvements.

Dorris Forbes Beecher interview by Matt McCauley, May 29, 1993, transcript, Kirkland Oral History Project, Kirkland Heritage Society, Kirkland; “Juanita Beach Given Award,” East Side Journal, January 15, 1931, pp. 1, 6; “Forbes Sell Lake Beach to County,” East Side Journal, April 12, 1956, pp. 1, 5; “Total of 635 Ft. to be Available for County Park,” East Side Journal, June 16, 1957, p. 1; “2 Park Transfers OK'd for Ballot in November,” The Seattle Times, August 20, 2002, p. B-1.

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Bathouse and swimmers, Juanita Beach, 1930s
Courtesy MOHAI (Neg W&S 83.10.18,078.1)

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