State resurrects Miller Peninsula plans

‘Destination’ park eyed for 2,800-acre property

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

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

SEQUIM — A proposal to create a destination park on Miller Peninsula is back on the planning table.

Staff with the Washington State Parks system are moving forward with a master plan to develop a state park on more than 2,800 acres on the peninsula between Sequim and the Clallam/Jefferson county boundary.

In 2005, the Washington State Parks system began a six-year project to establish one of Washington’s next destination state parks, shelved those plans with a lack of secure funding.

“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 Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, said in an email.

Those efforts were later reinvigorated and last November state parks staff recommended that Miller Peninsula be the site of 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 said in its recommendation late last year.

Todd Tatum, business development manager, said he expects to have outreach to the public (meetings, surveys) by March and be able to report back to state park commissioners those results at a May meeting.

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

“As for funding, we have $300,000 for the pre-design/master plan,” she said.

“Additional funding will need to be requested from the Legislature as we progress through the process. We will also likely apply for grants.”

State officials are hoping to get funding — about $1.1 million — to acquire the Jones Trust Property, a 21-acre parcel that includes a quarter-mile of shoreline that would provide park users with beach access.

“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 said in a list of proposed state parks project funding requests for the 2021-2023 biennium.

“There’s not a particular easy way to get to the water,” planning lead Nikki Fields told state park commissioners last week.

State park board commissioners were updated on plans for the park at a work session in Union last week.

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.

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

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 in Jefferson County, state officials said.

Since plans fell through for the park in the mid-2000s, volunteers have added signage on the property’s 20-mile trail system, one that is popular among hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

In 2014 and (finalized in) 2016, Hoch approved an interim trails plan for the property that includes input from a Trail Advisory Group representing hiking, biking and equestrian trail users and neighbors.

In addition, the Peninsula Trails Coalition in 2017 developed a trailhead at the adjacent Diamond Point Road to go along with the addition of two more large sections of the Olympic Discovery Trail.

State park 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, she said.

“(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 estimated that “overall property development cost (at Miller Peninsula) could exceed $40 million.”

Fields noted last week that Miller Peninsula does not have a water source yet.

“That is a process that involves costs and some risks (are) involved,” she said.

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

Tatum said state officials will host more information-gathering presentations in coming months. Public comments gathered at meetings in the mid-2000s would also be utilized.

“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.”

However, Tatum said, staff will survey more park users throughout the state when considering a vision for Miller Peninsula.

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

Rod Farlee of Sequim, who has volunteered to maintain trails on the Miller Peninsula property, said he’s concerned about the uneven funding for such parks year to year, and that development of newer parks could see the park system overextend itself.

“Funding for Washington State Parks that the Legislature provides is inadequate to maintain our current parks,” he said. “What’s the state budget going to look like in 10 years?”

Still, he said, he’d rather see the state develop Miller Peninsula as a state park rather than transfer it to the Department of Natural Resources or have it sold off.

“It’s unique and marvelous public resource that we’ll never replace,” Farlee said. “I’d rather see it developed than disposed of … (and) it’s not a doom and gloom if they do develop a small part of the parcel.”

________

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 editor@sequimgazette.com.

(Graphic by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

(Graphic by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A dirt road winds through tall trees on the Miller Peninsula state part property in this 2018 file photo. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News file)

A dirt road winds through tall trees on the Miller Peninsula state part property in this 2018 file photo. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News file)

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