State Parks talks expansion

Washington State Parks is considering expanding the boundaries of Moran and Obstruction Pass state parks by more than 350 acres.

State park employees gave a presentation of the department’s long-term boundary revision plan during a meeting at the Eastsound fire station on Nov. 29. The more than 30 people seated in chairs throughout the room listened as park planners Nikki Fields and Sanh Ho explained the proposed changes.

“Land classifications and the long-term boundaries – those maps – are intended to be long-term documents. We don’t change them all that often,” Fields said, adding that Moran is so big that it is the only park she’s seen that has all six of the land classifications. “It shows how big the park wants to be when it grows up. It will include properties that we currently own and possibly ones that we would like to purchase.”

Before the presentation of WSP’ intention for the two parks’ boundaries began, ranger Patty Anderson gave a brief history of Moran State Parks.

Purchased from Robert Moran in 1921.

“Then in the 1930s, we were blessed with the Civilian Conservation Corps, which essentially built the park. They built the log houses, the buildings, the shelters, the trail system. They even went up and built the road guardrail, and when they got to the top, they built a tower,” Anderson said. “There are many state parks that have lighthouses, but only one has a tower and that’s Moran.”

In the 1960s, campgrounds were constructed; word spread about how beautiful Moran State Park was and people began to use it more frequently.

“Now, 100 years later, we have over 5,000 acres, 39 miles of trails, and last year our attendance was over 900,000 people,” Anderson said. ”And they’re camping, and they’re fishing and they’re hiking, and they’re mountain biking, and they’re paddleboarding and they’re yoga paddleboarding. You name it, they find something to do at Moran.”

One thing lacking from the experience at Moran, Ho said, is that there is no beach access.

“At the time that we did the camp planning for Moran … we weren’t really thinking big when it came to our long-term park boundaries. When we were first starting out, we were thinking about things that are right in the middle of the park and it really should be part of the park,” Fields said. “We just weren’t thinking very big at the time, which is part of why we’re here tonight.”

State Parks is now considering adding three properties abutting the existing state parks to its long-term boundary. The three properties are the Youngren property, home to the Glenwood Springs Fish Hatchery; the Wilcox property, undeveloped land adjacent to the northeastern side of Moran State Park, along the shoreline; and the Burger/Playa property on Spring Bay next to Obstruction Pass State Park.

As of right now, there is no funding available for WSP to purchase any of the properties because the state has yet to pass a capital budget, Fields explained. Once the budget is approved, State Parks can begin acquisition of the properties. However, Fields said, the Youngren property is listed at more than $6 million and it is unlikely State parks will be able to purchase it outright. Additionally, they’re not the only ones interested in the land, the fish hatchery in particular.

“State Parks just learned that the Lummi nation is also interested in purchasing the property,” Ho said. “By adding the Youngren property to the long-term boundary it allows us to talk to the Lummi for some sort of partnership to operate a different part of the property.”

Fields added that State Parks isn’t particularly interested in running a fish hatchery, so it welcomes this partnership. State Parks and the Lummi Tribe had a meeting together on the day following the presentation to discuss the prospective alliance.

“I don’t know exactly what it will look like and I don’t know what they’re willing to do,” Fields said. “But what they told me is they’re interested in talking about partnerships.”

The soonest State Parks would be able to purchase any of the properties would be in 2019 when grants are awarded following the next cycle in spring. A map of the proposed expansion and an area where the public can leave comments is located online, at parks.state.wa.us/1087/Moran-Long-Term-Boundary-Revision. More detailed information, including suggested land classifications, will be posted online soon.

“We’re very happy to hear from you and we look forward to talking with you more … So the proposals … are really just drafts,” Fields said. “We’re planning to take them to our parks and recreation commission for consideration in March … So between now and then, we can change them.”