Jefferson County, state parcel swap to create 645-acre park south of Chimacum

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — A land exchange between the state Department of Natural Resources and Jefferson County will create a new recreation area while preventing a clearcutting operation, according to a county commissioner.

The state land about 12 miles south of Port Townsend consists of 305 acres of timber resource property between the Gibbs Lake and Beausite Lake county parks.

When joined, it will become a contiguous 645-acre park south of Chimacum.

“This area will be a new place open for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding, but the major reason I was pushing for this is that it means there will be no clearcut,” said John Austin, who has said that completing the deal was one of his goals before he leaves office Dec. 31.

“This is a good deal for everybody.”

The decision to exchange the land for another parcel owned by Jefferson County was made by the state Board of Natural Resources on Tuesday, a meeting that Austin attended.

The title transfer will occur in the next few months, said Bob Redling, state Department of Natural Resources spokesman.

The Jefferson County land has a value of $1.7 million, including $1.2 million in timber resources.

The county could get a percentage of the profits if the timber is harvested, but it is forfeiting timber profits and will receive a payout of more than $1 million, Austin and Redling said.

The land will be exchanged for a slightly larger parcel south of Anderson Lake that can now be harvested for timber, Austin said.

This requires the reclassification of both parcels.

The parcel now designated as timber land instead will become a county park, while the property near Anderson Lake will become part of the state trust lands that fund public schools in rural areas through timber harvests.

If and when the latter is harvested, the county will get a portion of the profits to be used for support of public schools and local fire districts, Austin said.

The trade is a good one for DNR, since the property near Anderson Lake is a more easily harvested parcel for timber, according to an agency document.

After a harvest, there will be evidence of clearcutting on that parcel, but it will have less of an impact on recreation than if the harvest were to take place on the tract now protected by the county, Austin said.

“This really is a better solution for us,” he said.

“We are losing revenue, but we are gaining accessible land.”

The exchange required that Jefferson County return $30,000 in timber use fees it took while the state conducted a timber feasibility study on the newly acquired land.

Austin said the new park will not require additional maintenance or operation, although costs could be allocated for its support in the future.

“We don’t know what we are going to do with the new park just yet,” he said.

“Until that point, people can just use it for recreation as they have in the past.”

Under state ownership, the land was accessible to the public, Austin said.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 07. 2014 7:37PM
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