State bestows money for island parcels

Substantially increased funding by the Legislature for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program will help fund five projects in Island County.

The unprecedented increase of between $50 and $100 million will provide additional state funding for projects across the state, including new neighborhood parks, more hiking trails, better campgrounds and shoreline facilities, and protection of wildlife  habitat and family farms.

Whidbey Camano Land Trust Executive Director Patricia Powell applauded all three 10th District legislators for supporting the appropriation, noting that “the five projects will benefit Island County residents and visitors alike.”

More than $800,000 will be earmarked for a redevelopment project at the day use area at Cornet Bay, with site improvements. The Cornet Bay area within the park includes a double lane boat launch for motorized craft, a day use area, and an environmental learning center that is connected by a narrow road to Hoypus Point where there currently are no facilities.

The main elements of the project include a new comfort station and conversion of the existing road, from Cornet Bay to Hoypus Point, into a multi-use trail that would be closed to public vehicles. At Hoypus Point, a picnic site and interpretive signs are proposed. In addition to modern restrooms with showers.

At Cornet Bay project elements include a picnic shelter, kayak launch, park shuttle bus shelter, boat rinse-down station, and a recycling/trash collection station.

Also at Deception Pass Park, $459,775 will be used for the Hoypus Hill addition. The proposed acquisition includes three separate parcels, containing a total of 53 acres, including a 50-foot strip of waterfront land.

The property is bounded on two sides — west and north — by the Hoypus Hill area of the park. The property offers a trailhead opportunity with connections to the existing trail system for use by hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. The acquisition also offers a key segment alternative to the Pacific Northwest Trail.

Working in partnership with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and Island County, the acquisition will be matched with $752,000 from the Island County Conservation Futures program.

“This addition will protect the park’s old growth forest stands and also allow new loop trail opportunities for non-motorized users,” Powell said.

A $750,000 proposal to acquire conservation easements on three contiguous pieces of land totaling more than 150 acres in a 200-acre area inside the boundaries of the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve should effectively protect the land from development.

“Acquisition will protect a large swath of both current and historical farmland in perpetuity and connect Crockett Prairie to Ebey’s Prairie,” according to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition’s Web site. “The proposal is to acquire and extinguish 22 residential subdivision development rights,  with potentially two of the three owners reserving up to one homesite in designated locations that do not interfere with farming operations.”

A $390,000 project at the south entrance of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve aims to acquire a conservation easement on 66.5 acres, limiting future use of the property to agricultural activities that protect the significant soil productivity, and ecological and scenic values of the area. The property has been a productive conifer seed farm for nearly 30 years. The property is zoned rural agriculture — one homesite per 10 acres — and has been in the Agricultural Open Space tax classification category since 1977.

The state funding will also provide nearly $100,000 for a project to help recover Golden Paintbrush, or Castilleja levisecta, a plant species threatened with extinction. Restoration of the historic prairie and recovery of the golden paintbrush is under way at the Naas Natural Area Preserve, also known as Admiralty InletNAP, owned by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust with a conservation easement held by the Department of Natural Resources. Both entities are participating in site planning, recovery and restoration efforts, and management.

“This is one of only 11 sites in the world where Golden Paintbrush, a federally threatened, state endangered and globally imperiled species survives,” the coalition’s Web site said. “This preserve is one of the two largest  remaining habitat areas for meeting federal and state recovery goals.”

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is a state grant program that protects habitat and creates new local and state parks. It is administered by the IAC and funded by the Legislature.