BLYN — As Washington State parks officials continue to consider plans for Miller Peninsula State Park, property neighbors, park users and other Olympic Peninsula residents continue to express their concerns.
State officials held what turned into a town hall-style meeting Tuesday — a gathering that drew more than 200 attendees to a 7 Cedars Resort meeting room in Blyn.
The 2,800-acre undeveloped park east of Sequim, which includes a trail system built and maintained by local hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians through second-growth forest, has long been eyed by state planners as a “destination park.”
Since at least the mid-2000s, parks officials have approved a vision for a “nature within reach” park, with options that include a central village lodging and amenities, wildlife viewing, interpretive displays and day and night use (lodging and camping).
But Olympic Peninsula natives packed the local meeting space to tell State Parks Director Diana Dupuis and three State Parks commissioners that they believe significant development of the property would be detrimental to the area.
Residents cited a number of potential issues, including increased traffic off U.S. Highway 101; cutting off of wildlife corridors; a lack of water to serve a developed park; an increase in crime and threat of fire with limited firefighting resources, among others.
As in previous meetings, Sue Gilman — a Sequim resident and chair of a local group seeking to safeguard Miller Peninsula State Park — asked parks commissioners to consider a fourth option that reduces the impact of the three other plans.
“[Make it] something a lot more minimal that what you’re suggesting,” Gilman said.
One meeting attendee said she’s lived on the Olympic Peninsula for 70 years and enjoyed several State Parks properties until recent years, as users with reservations fill up the sites.
“Miller is the only state park I use, because it’s undeveloped,” she said. “I bring my horse and ride for hours.”
Linda Morin, a member of several Backcountry Horseman groups, urged park staff to dial down their plans for development.
“This is a true example of a state park of the future; keep it manageable,” Morin said.
In a later interview, Morin said she doesn’t want to see the state lose interest to the point where it decides to sell off the land to a private developer or company.
“We can’t lose that property,” Morin said.
She also said she is hopeful a solution can be found between the community and parks staff.
“We have a wonderful rapport with the state; we really want that to continue,” Morin said.
Parks planner Nikki Fields said the next step is to complete an environmental impact study (EIS) for the property. In mid-July, commissioners voted to put forth a request for $600,000 for the creation of an EIS and master plan for Miller Peninsula State Park in the next state biennial budget, which begins in 2023.
Park staff originally had more funding set aside for development of the Sequim-area property, noted Kyle Murphy, state parks capital program manager, but based on conversations with stakeholders decided to focus on the master plan and EIS.
That EIS will include a “do nothing” alternative, state parks staff said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“You want a much smaller footprint; we don’t think a large footprint is the way to go with the park,” Fields said.
Michael Hankinson, a parks planner with Washington State Parks, said a lot of people from the Seattle area don’t have RVs, and a property such as Miller Peninsula State Park could offer something like a lodge.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to make the park accessible to all Washingtonians,” Fields said.
Dupuis, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission’s director who took on the role in March, most recently worked at Spokane’s 9,000-plus-acre Riverside State Park.
“[It’s] surrounded completely by developments,” she told meeting attendees. “Your concerns — fire, water, law enforcement, all the things your brought up today — I’m intimately familiar with.”
She said she now has a better understanding about the project and that information and updates regarding Miller Peninsula State Park will be better.
Commissioners said they could not offer opinions about what they heard from attendees at the Tuesday meeting, but they’d gleaned more information to inform their decision-making.
“I know it’s controversial,” Commissioner Ken Bounds said. “I say, ‘People love parks [but] they don’t always love them the same way.’”
In a January meeting, Fields detailed three primary options for Miller Peninsula State Park: Immersed in Nature, Village Center and Traditional.
The Immersed in Nature concept, she explained, spreads out a number of nature-focused amenities, with two main camping loops in the park’s center and primarily undeveloped areas on the park’s west side.
The Village Center option sees most development in the parks center around a lodge, with two camping loops, an education center, amphitheater, climbing walls and multi-use open lawn area nearby.
The third option, Traditional, offers three relatively large camping loops with about 70, 45 and 40 campsites, a 20-person group camping loop and a day-use area in the Northwest portion of the park, with activities or features including a botanical garden, amphitheater, amphibian pond, artist space and more.
To view planning efforts at Miller Peninsula State Park property to date, visit parks.wa.gov/1187/Miller-Peninsula-Planning.