Young city seeing significant shift in demographics

Eleven-year-old Tevin Moore catapults a tennis ball with a red spoonlike toy for the family Labrador, Barklay. The Lab lumbers across the lawn and splashes into Lake Wilderness at the Maple Valley park.

Tevin's mother, Anne Yanak, and sister, 7-year-old Olivia Yanak-Moore, watch and then try to dodge Barklay's energetic shaking.

The family moved to Maple Valley two years ago because they found a corner house near the park, school and library.

"And we love it," said Yanak. She and her husband, Ronald Moore, are an interracial couple, and she was a little concerned when they moved to Maple Valley. But, "we've been well-received," Yanak said.

The city is a bedroom community east of Kent and Covington and north of Black Diamond. Like many communities, Maple Valley is growing rapidly.

For the past three years, Maple Valley has averaged about 350 new single-family homes, and last year it had 450, said Ty Peterson, director of Community Development for Maple Valley.

"That means we're starting construction of a new home every day," Peterson said.

The city currently has more than 500 homes under construction, 350 lots ready to build on and more than 400 lots going through the city's approval process.

The median price of a home in the area that includes Maple Valley was $349,500 in May, up 26.6 percent from a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The city also has three retail and business developments in various stages of permitting and construction.

Overall, the city has added 500,000 square feet of business and retail space since the city incorporated in 1997, said City Councilmember Jim Flynn, a commercial contractor who grew up in Maple Valley.

"Almost everything has changed," Flynn said.

Years ago, Flynn's neighbors were Boeing assembly-line workers, loggers, miners and construction workers, but now most residents are professionals, he said.

The median household income is $74,781, according to the city.

The city's current population estimate is 19,140, Peterson said, up from 14,209 in 2000.

"Physically, the change is just unbelievable," Flynn said. "It used to be a bunch of two-lane roads. A lot of woods and houses far apart."

The City Council has faced many big decisions in the city's first nine years of existence. Currently, the city has two commercial centers but doesn't have the traditional downtown.

Maple Valley owns 50 acres near Lake Wilderness and could purchase more if a 50-acre gravel quarry next door shuts down as expected in three to five years, Peterson said.

That means the city could have up to 100 acres of undeveloped land, "which doesn't even exist in the Puget Sound area," Peterson said.

The City Council is not rushing into what to do with the property near Lake Wilderness, Flynn said. "The only decision that has been made is that it is a real jewel."

A golfer prepares to tee off at Elk Run Golf Course. The Times rated Elk Run's No. 9 one of the best public holes in the area. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Maple Valley

Population: 19,140 (2006 estimate)

Schools: The city of Maple Valley is served by the Tahoma School District. The district has one high school, one alternative high school, one junior-high school, two middle schools, four elementary schools and a parent-partnered school.

Housing: Of the 5,650 total housing units, 85 percent are owner-occupied, 10 percent are renter-occupied and 5 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Valley Medical Center, Enumclaw Regional Hospital and Auburn Regional Medical Center.

Public facilities: Lake Wilderness Park, 22500 S.E. 248th St., a 108-acre, regional park with lots of prime shoreline, preserved forestland and meandering pathways. Located within the park is Lake Wilderness Lodge and Executive Conference Center, a children's play area with play structures, walking paths, tennis courts, fishing pier, picnic tables and barbecues, picnic shelters (available for rental), baseball field, restrooms. Adjacent to the park is the 40-acre Lake Wilderness Arboretum. Maple Valley Skate Park, 22010 S.E. 248th St.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf