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Mukai House and Garden Cherry Blossoms Herald State Court Decision

As venerable cherry trees bloom on the Mukai House and garden grounds, the landmark farm property, after years of dispute, has finally returned to community control. On April 4th, State Court of Appeals Judges Spearman, Appelwick and Leach issued a unanimous and definitive decision affirming King County Judge Monica Benton’s 2015 ruling granting Friends of Mukai full legal rights to the landmark Mukai House and Garden. This long-awaited judgement allows Friends of Mukai to restore this historic landmark of Vashon’s Japanese and agricultural heritage and make it accessible to the greater community.  The Judges affirmed that those who joined Island Landmarks in 2012 were valid members; therefore the Board they elected at a special meeting in 2012 actually is the legal Board, responsible for, and owner of the historic Mukai property.  

Island Landmarks purchased the Mukai House and garden in 2000, using state, federal and county funds, with commitments to restore the garden and open the site to the public for educational purposes.  Sadly, the organization languished. In 2012, a group of islanders, “Friends of Mukai”, concerned by the ongoing neglect of the property, the lack of community access, and lack of response, initiated a successful membership drive for Island Landmarks, and elected a new board.  The right to do this was challenged by the deposed group, so the new board took the issue to court, beginning the lengthy process just concluded.

Throughout the arduous multi-year legal battle, the Friends of Mukai Board had the assistance and support of State Senator Sharon Nelson, State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and King County Council member Joe McDermott.  In addition, key agencies who were most helpful included 4Culture, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.  Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust and Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association provided much appreciated encouragement and local support.

Winning the landmark decision was achieved with the support of the stellar legal team of David Brenner and Dan Gunter, of Riddel Williams and Charles Maduell, of Davis Wright Tremaine, who on a pro bono basis served with Friends of Mukai President Lynn Greiner on this multi-year challenging and unprecedented case. They, their firms, and numerous other local legal professionals donated countless hours of service working with great dedication, skill, and imagination to prevail against a determined and well-financed opponent.

With the favorable decision by the State Court of Appeals, Friends of Mukai is moving forward to secure the site, complete the professional assessment by Artifacts Consulting and begin the work to stabilize and restore the House and Garden.The group plans to re-involve the community and Friends of Mukai’s many supporters in the work of assuring the future of this historical landmark.  

An open house thank you celebration at the House and garden is planned for the near future