Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission sets Sequim meeting for Thursday

Panel to consider pilot programs for private investors in four parks, including Fort Flagler

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission sets Sequim meeting for Thursday

Olympic Peninsula News Group

SEQUIM — A pilot program that would allow private investors to develop recreation amenities in four state parks, including Fort Flagler, is on the agenda at the next Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission set for Thursday in Sequim.

The commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at Holiday Inn, 1441 E. Washington St., Sequim.

The commission, which has seven regular meetings a year at various locations around the state, is looking at private development of cabins or other facilities at the four parks.

Only one is on the North Olympic Peninsula: Fort Flagler Historical State Park on Marrowstone Island.

Others are Millersylvania and Squilchuck state parks, and a fourth site that would combine Westhaven and Westport Light state parks — to be renamed as Chehalis Point State Park.

The goal, park officials say, is not to privatize parks but to provide visitor amenities at little to no cost to the state. The park system would earn revenue from concession agreements.

Any development would need to be aligned with the state parks mission and would be sited to avoid negative impacts to sensitive natural features and systems, they said.

As proposed, the property would stay under state ownership, with leases granted to private investors.

Parks now have concession agreements with commercial ventures — that’s nothing new.

The difference is that the new proposal would mean that Washington State Parks would reach out to private industry with a competitive process to gauge interest, according to Virginia Painter, State Parks spokeswoman.

If the idea is approved, and if there is interest, assessments of the environmental impacts and other factors would have to be done, and permits obtained, she noted, adding that it could be two years before anything would be developed.

Fort Flagler occupies 1,454 acres at the north end of Marrowstone Island of which 20 acres are open for development, according to state documents.

The commission will allow 30 minutes of public comment on the item, tentatively scheduled to begin at 12:40 p.m.

The state parks and recreation commission is also planning to discuss next steps for possible redevelopment of the Saint Edward Seminary building near Kenmore. The board will consider viable public or nonprofit options for development and use of the building, and in a separate item decide whether to continue to explore an earlier lodge development proposal by Daniels Real Estate of Seattle.

The consideration is the latest in a years-long discussion and public meetings about how to care for the historic building, which has mounting preservation needs, is of limited usability in its current condition and historically has cost the agency about $100,000 a year to maintain. The commission earlier concluded it could find an interested investor to rehabilitate the building for a modern use, or, as a last resort, shutter the building and let it slowly degrade.

Other action items on the agenda include:

• Review and rescinding of outdated commission policies

• Revisions to the commission’s law enforcement and public safety policy

• Ranking of 16 development and acquisition grant projects proposed for funding through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program

• The agency’s 2017 supplemental budget request

The commission also will hear an annual update on the status of the Kukutali Preserve as part of Deception Pass State Park. Kukutali is co-managed by Washington State Parks and the Swinomish Tribe.

A work session starts the commission meeting, beginning at 9 a.m. The public is invited; however, there is no opportunity for public comment, and no formal action is taken at work sessions.

A full agenda, including information about public comment, is available at http://parks.state.wa.us/154/Commission-Meetings-Agendas.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling about 120,000 acres. The commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for natural, cultural and historic resources.

State parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.

See http://parks.state.wa.us/, www.facebook.com/WashingtonStateParks and www.youtube.com/WashingtonStateParks for more information.

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