Demand low for conservation cash

Only two applications for Conservation Futures funding were received by Island County Parks Department this year, which amounts to a total grant request of about $83,000 from an available $400,000, said Parks Director Lee McFarland on Thursday.

Island County is asking for $28,000 to buy two parcels of tide land on north Camano Island. The city of Oak Harbor is requesting $55,000 to purchase some easements in the area of City Beach, in order to complete construction on the city’s waterfront trail.

The application cycle for funding closed Feb. 28, McFarland said. In the past, the parks department has received as many as four applications for money intended to purchase, preserve and maintain open spaces for public use.

“Properties that are bought with conservation futures are used for passive type use,” McFarland explained, meaning such properties cannot be converted to such things as ball fields. They remain, for the most part, raw land to be used for recreation.

Even if the Board of Island County Commissioners approve both applications after the review process, the $83,000 doesn’t make much of a dent in this year’s revenue.

“We will have money remaining in the account,” McFarland said. “We also are paying debt services on some previous purchases.”

Conservation Futures were set up in the early 1990s as a means for government and non-profit agencies to preserve undeveloped land for public use and recreation. Property taxes support the ordinance, with conservation revenues collected at about six cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

In the past, Conservation Futures fund have helped purchase the Greenbank Farm, the Ala Spit off Jones Road, 37 acres of wetland known as the Freund Property and 80 acres of forested land near Libbey Road, as well as the Maxwelton Creek Outdoor Classroom and Double Bluff on South Whidbey, and several projects on Camano Island.

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