Land buys OK'd

Oak Harbor received a boost when the county approved money that will help the city improve its trail access and to ensure open spaces as the city grows.

During their Monday morning meeting, county commissioners approved giving the city $60,000 to buy a trailhead for its trail system and approved the purchase of marshland on the western edge of town off Heller and Crosby roads.

“We’re very excited that the county ... supported these projects,” said Robert Voigt, Oak Harbor senior planner.

He added that residents will see an immediate benefit to the city when the trailhead is complete and that preserving the marshland will ensure the city will have open spaces as its boundaries expand.

The vacant residential lot on Scenic Heights Road will be converted into a trailhead for the city’s waterfront trail where trees will be planted and public restroom facilities and a limited number of parking spaces will be installed.

The marshland purchase fits into the city’s long-range plans to ensure open spaces as the towns urban growth boundary expands.

The marsh will remain open and trails and interpretive signage is the only construction planned to take place.

Doling out the estimated $150,000 for the marshland is contingent on the city getting a proper appraisal for the land, which Voigt said will be done as soon as possible.

“That was what we always envisioned,” Voigt said.

Another project receiving money from the futures fund is the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s project to preserve the Davis Slough heron rookery.

The county commissioners approved $225,000 for the rookery. But that approval depends on an having the property revert back to the county should the herons permanently leave.

Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell said there is no problem as long as the herons stay, but he wants to give the county government an option should the birds disappear.

“We should give some future board the option to sell the property,” McDowell said.

The commissioners also approved the purchase of beachfront property on Utsalady Bay on Camano Island.

The county received $135,000 from the state to help pay for the Camano beachfront.

Although Conservation Futures the advisory boards recommended not to approve the beach acquisition, the county disagreed.

“Public access to the water is the most important use of Conservation Futures Funds,” McDowell said, adding that public access to the water is needed as it is threatened by development.

The county approved $560,000 in futures funds Monday morning.

The Conservation program is funded by a 6.25 cent tax per $1,000 assessed value on a home.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynews or 675-6611.

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