This story begins with a cougar eating a tiny dog in Snoqualmie | KUOW News and Information

This story begins with a cougar eating a tiny dog in Snoqualmie

Mar 16, 2017

A woman, a new resident of the huge Snoqualmie Ridge development, had called in for pizza.

It was the first pie order for one of those new shiny houses, and Harold Nesland III, owner of Sahara Pizza, drove it over.

The woman was moving furniture into her brand new home. She was kind, Nesland said, and she had a little dog. Three days later, he delivered her another pizza. This time, she was moving her furniture out.

“She had taken her dog on a walk the very first day that she lived there,” Nesland said. “A cougar had jumped out of the bushes and ate her dog. And of course she wanted the police to go hunt the cougar. And the police said, ‘Ma’am, you moved into their home. Why would we hunt the cougar? It was just hungry.’

“And she moved back to New York.”

Back then, in the early 2000s, those new residents on the Ridge were scorned by old town Snoqualmie. The employees at Sahara Pizza, most of them sons of loggers, liked to complain about the new development.

“The loggers, if they had their way, they would have chopped down a big old growth tree and put it right across the parkway," Nesland said. "They wanted to change the name of this town back to Snoqualmie Falls and let them have Snoqualmie Ridge.”

KUOW's Region of Boom team went to Snoqualmie to see what it feels like after two decades of growth. We were hoping to get a sense of what might happen in Black Diamond, where we’ve spent the last month reporting, and where a new development will quadruple the small town’s population. The buildout will take decades to complete.

When construction began, Snoqualmie had fewer than 2,000 residents. Today, it has over 12,000. 

A stuffed cougar, on display at Yellowstone.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

Among the first wave of people was Danna McCall. “We were just looking for a place to raise the four kids,” McCall said. “We’d moved around a lot trying to find a home we could afford.”

They landed in Snoqualmie Ridge. “I think we were about the 800th home built on the Ridge and there’s, I think, close to 4,000 now,” she said.

McCall remembers the day she moved in.

“My husband had to work that day,” she said. It was up to her to move all the furniture. She was eight months pregnant, and she had three kids under the age of six underfoot. Her parents-in-law helped, but at the end of the day, “everything hurt … I had moved too much. It was absolute, pure exhaustion.”

Come dinner time, she opened the Yellow Pages (few people had smartphones back then) and found Sahara Pizza.

“I called, and I was almost crying and was like, will you deliver to the Ridge? And they’re like, sure! And I’m like, thank you! And I was crying and my kids were like, what’s wrong mommy? And I’m like, I don’t have to cook!”

Danna McCall lives in the big development that's dwarfed the old part of Snoqualmie. She writes a news blog called Living Snoqualmie.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Soon after, the doorbell rang, and several hot pizzas saved the day. “It was great,” McCall said.

That pizza delivery was the starting point for her deeper relationship with the rest of Snoqualmie. She started a news blog called Living Snoqualmie. And she started to understand how residents of old Snoqualmie felt about the Ridge.

“Some have the belief that it ruined a way of life out here,” she said. “I don’t think it’s as much animosity toward the people, just the development instead. Maybe bringing in a different type of people that may not understand how the valley works.”

Things have improved lately. Pizza deliveries may have played a role, so have kids who play on soccer teams together. McCall’s son doesn’t hear the insult “Ridge kid” tossed around so much anymore.

“The ‘Ridge kids,’ right?" McCall said. "I’m like, ‘Do you still get that at school?’ And he said, ‘Not as often anymore, and it’s only from one particular group of kids.’”

School buses in Snoqualmie, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

At Sahara Pizza, owner Nesland said he knew the Snoqualmie Ridge residents would turn out to be all right. And once they got ahead of their big mortgages, their tips improved.

“Although most of them seem to be from bigger cities, they seem to acclimatize and have a small town attitude once they get out here, and they lose that New Yorker type of attitude really quick,” he said. “They’re really friendly.”

Nesland said even those loggers’ kids who used to work in his kitchen have come around.

"My son works in the construction industry, and their sons work in the construction industry and are still benefiting from the development 15-20 years from the same development – as they continue to develop it.” They’re building the houses of Snoqualmie Ridge.

Brian Ross of Oakpointe, the developer at Black Diamond.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The developer in Black Diamond has been watching Snoqualmie. His name is Brian Ross, and he works for Oakpointe. He said he’s learned some things. “For instance, you know, Snoqualmie Ridge was separate and apart from downtown Snoqualmie,” he said. That contributes to the sense that Snoqualmie Ridge and Snoqualmie are separate towns.

KUOW’s Region of Boom Team is wrapping up a month of reporting in Black Diamond. You can look back over all those stories on our Black Diamond page

Ross said Black Diamond’s development will take a different approach. “We’re building around a city. We surround the downtown core of Black Diamond basically on three sides. So we want to build in the context of that, not remotely off by ourselves.”

The divisions between the people that want growth and the people that want the town to stay small are more pronounced in Black Diamond than they ever were in Snoqualmie.

And the wounds that have partially healed in Snoqualmie – thanks to pizza deliveries and soccer games – show signs they could reopen someday.

The new part of town, Snoqualmie Ridge, is still growing. A new phase of the development will open soon. And it will bring stores and restaurants to Snoqualmie Ridge, including a MOD Pizza restaurant. Ties to the old town of Snoqualmie could weaken.

“If you live in the right area of the Ridge, you can get bubble-ized living up here,” said Danna McCall. She can hear it in how people talk: “Newer residents will sometimes say ‘Snoqualmie Ridge,’ as the city name – instead of Snoqualmie.”

It’s almost like those sons of loggers who used to work at Sahara Pizza actually cut down that old tree by the highway, after all. The tree that would fall across the road, dividing the old town from the new. It’s just that it took 20 years for that tree to fall.

Nesland will be ready to deliver pizzas even if the town becomes more divided. Both in Snoqualmie ... and in Black Diamond, where he owns a second pizza restaurant.

In April, the Region of Boom team heads to Renton/Kent/Auburn. People forced out of Seattle are moving to the area, as others are being pushed further South. It’s also one of the largest manufacturing areas in the U.S. Got a story idea for us down there? Tweet @KUOW #RegionOfBoom

You can also fill out our story pitch form, or send growth related stories (especially about Renton, Kent, and Auburn right now) to reporter Joshua McNichols.