Planning revived for new park

Officials: Miller Peninsula to be a ‘destination’ park

Washington State Parks is looking to create a master plan for the development of Miller Peninsula as the next “destination” state park. (Map courtesy of Washington State Parks)

Washington State Parks is looking to create a master plan for the development of Miller Peninsula as the next “destination” state park. (Map courtesy of Washington State Parks)

SEQUIM — A state effort more than 15 years in the making to further develop Miller Peninsula State Park will be revived this fall.

The first of several Washington State Parks meetings to define the future of the property just east of Sequim is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 6 on the Microsoft Teams platform at j.mp/32CRZbO.

State officials say they will take into account community members’ hopes for and concerns regarding the park’s development at the 2,800-acre site on Miller Peninsula between Sequim and the Clallam/Jefferson county boundary.

The public can provide written questions, comments and suggestions during the meeting. Afterward, more comments can be made on the project webpage at tinyurl.com/PDN-Miller.

Comments will be accepted through Oct. 31.

The planning process is expected to produce a master plan, long-term park boundary, land classifications with a “pre-design” report with details on the first phase of development, and an official name, park officials said.

The initial public process also will consider changes to the nearby Sequim Bay State Park “so that the two parks will provide complementary experiences,” park officials said.

Park background

Miller Peninsula State Park includes a trail system built and maintained by regional hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians through second-growth forest. It also includes 3 miles of saltwater shoreline on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Discovery Bay.

In 2005, the state parks system began a six-year project to establish one of Washington’s next destination state parks.

“We did begin some work on developing Miller Peninsula in the mid-2000s; however, the effort was put on hold due to the economy,” Anna Gill, communications director for the state Parks and Recreation Commission, said in January.

Those efforts were reinvigorated in the following years, and staff recommended to the state parks commission in November 2019 that they select Miller Peninsula as the next full-service state park.

“The amount of space at Miller Peninsula that is suitable for development provides an unmatched opportunity to explore a full suite of potential state park facilities and amenities, making it the ideal site in which to craft the state park of tomorrow,” parks staff noted in its recommendation late last year.

Pre-design and master planning for Miller Peninsula’s state park was slated for June, while design and construction was tentatively planned for July 2021 through June 2022, Gill said in January.

Design and construction, however, was contingent on funding.

In April, Clallam County commissioners said they would support a state effort to acquire the Jones Trust Property, a 21-acre parcel that includes a quarter-mile of shoreline.

“It is one of the few places in Miller Peninsula where it may be possible to build beach access, since most of the current property is high bank; access to the water will be important for park visitors,” the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program noted in a list of proposed state parks project funding requests for the 2021-2023 biennium.

Washington State Parks is looking to create a master plan for the development of Miller Peninsula as the next “destination” state park. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Washington State Parks is looking to create a master plan for the development of Miller Peninsula as the next “destination” state park. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Park planning

State park board commissioners reviewed plans for Miller Peninsula’s park from fields and business development manager Todd Tatum at a state Parks and Recreation Commission work session in Union in January.

Planning lead Nikki Fields and Tatum said the vision is for the property to be developed as a “destination” park, with users drawn from across the state and region.

State park board commissioner Sophia Danenberg said Miller Peninsula could be a more passive park where users simply enjoy the ecosystem, or a more recreation-based park providing opportunities that Olympic National Park doesn’t right now.

“I’d like to think that the property is big enough to do both,” parks commission director Donald Hoch said.

The property would be a complement to what is offered at heavily used nearby parks such as Sequim Bay State Park in Clallam County as well as Fort Worden and Fort Flagler state parks in Jefferson County, parks officials said.

Since plans fell through to grow the state park in the mid-2000s, Miller Peninsula has seen some development. Volunteers added signage on the property’s 20-mile trail system, one that is popular among hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

State parks staff have done some work on a trailhead plan and some trail mapping, Fields said, but there is plenty of work to be done in planning stages, including a site analysis and cost estimates as part of an overall master plan.

How to connect with the Olympic Discovery Trail will be part of the overall plan.

“(We) also need a name for the park; Miller Peninsula is just a placeholder name,” Fields said.

In the park’s original concept, part of the State Parks’ Centennial 2013 Plan, staff requested an initial $12 million from the state budget to “plan, permit and construct basic facilities for the park,” and it estimated that “overall property development cost (at Miller Peninsula) could exceed $40 million.”

The Miller Peninsula Vision report notes public comments encourage park facilities, trails and other property changes to be restrained to 10 percent to 20 percent of overall site, with the remaining 80 percent to 90 percent left undeveloped.

“There are some members of the public who don’t want to see this property be developed,” Fields noted.

Tatum said public comments gathered at meetings in the mid-2000s would be used along with more recent ones.

“We’re not looking to start from scratch,” he said. “There was a lot of good work done; a lot of it is still valid.”

Tatum added that park users will be surveyed statewide.

“(We’re looking at) getting more voices of people throughout the state, not just local information,” he said.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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