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Development: County robs our heritage
It is easy to be robbed of a valuable heritage, and Island County Commissioners are willing to be party to the crime. Friends of Krueger Farm, working with the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust, are attempting to preserve the 33-acre woodland and pasture that are the last surviving parts of the Fred Krueger Farm. This is not just another piece of Island County prairie, but a diverse habitat located within the Coupeville town limits which deserves to remain an undeveloped part of Ebeys Landing National Historical Reserve.
Friends of Krueger Farm successfully raised over $300,000 from generous Island County residents as part of the initial purchase of the remaining farm site. Logically, this group petitioned the Island County Commissioners for support from the Conservation Futures Fund. The commissioners denied the request because of so-called parity issues, i.e. you cant have yours until I get mine. Parity only makes sense when intelligent ground rules are established for measuring that parity.
The Conservation Futures Fund is designed to purchase property or easements that will benefit the residents of Island County. Significant recent purchases include the heron rookery on Camano Island, beach access at Double Bluff, and the historic Greenbank Farm. The commissioners devised a plan to allocate Conservation Futures Funds based on geographic boundaries.
This policy only makes sense if somehow the benefits of the acquired properties benefit only the residents within those boundaries. This isnt the case with property like the heron rookery. The rookery benefits all of Island County with a safe refuge for these wonderful and far-ranging birds. It isnt the case with Greenbank Farm, which benefits all of Whidbey Island as a tourist attraction and is a significant part of the islands scenic highway.
It is obvious that in some cases the Conservation Futures Fund may be used for projects that benefit only a small geographic area, such as a pocket park, easement trail or beach access, and in these instances some sort of parity rating system might be appropriate. But there are other purchases that benefit multiple geographic areas, and the commissioners need to develop a scoring plan that considers this also.
Central Whidbey Island is being denied use of the Conservation Futures Fund because of the large investment in Greenbank Farm that benefits everyone on the Island, not just the residents of Central Whidbey Island. The commissioners need to stop this myopic geographic approach to spending tax dollars and develop a rating plan for the Conservation Futures Fund that grades the overall benefits of proposed projects. The governing rules for programs like this should always be open to review and revision, and it is time to do that now!