LONG BEACH - Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is shifting gears and moving toward a more cooperative, conservation-minded approach in resolving its land consolidation/acquisition headaches on the Peninsula.

This time it is courting local land use watchdog groups, unlike its previous maneuvering on the Peninsula to either dispose of its "piano key" holdings or to negotiate a land swap.

State Parks' current goal

The current goal for State Parks on the Peninsula is the acquisition of Christensen's 45 acres of upland property and 48 acres of beachfront property in the Beards Hollow area. This is the very same 93 acres of land which was on the table during this summer's failed land swap involving State Parks, RealVest Corp. and the city of Long Beach.

Also on State Parks' wish list is consolidating a number of piano key strips of property in the dunes of Seaview, which is a clear indication that the piano keys issue is back after an approximately one-year hiatus. The current piano key consolidation effort includes plans by State Parks to acquire privately owned Seaview piano key property.

Sept. 24 Long Beach meeting

On Sept. 24 in Long Beach, State Parks Planning Program Manager Bill Koss and State Parks Parks Planner Daniel Farber, both out of the Olympia State Parks headquarters, met with representatives from Concerned Coastal Citizens and the Seaview Coalition.

While surmising State Parks' efforts to acquire both the Christensen and Seaview properties, Farber said they must include State Parks' objective of preserving the whole area - and equally important - where the possible millions of dollars that may be needed will come from. Another piece of the puzzle for State Parks is working with local watchdog groups. According to Farber, when he and Koss met with the Concerned Coastal Citizens and Seaview Coalition representatives in Long Beach last week, the main focus was on strategy.

"We went to them and said that we want help with a strategy on how to do this, to preserve as much of the area as we can," said Farber. "We asked them if there is a local community interest to meet the objectives of conserving that land - the Seaview area and the Christensen property."

Farber said he thought the meeting in Long Beach was very productive and that it was obvious that there were mutual interests, noting that, "the tenor of communication felt very positive."

CCC's reaction to the meeting

According to Concerned Coastal Citizens member Katherine O'Neil, the Sept. 24 Long Beach meeting was an opportunity to work with State Parks to come up with a balance between development and conservation, particularly in light of the fact that State Parks is the largest single owner of dunal property on the Peninsula.

"The goals of Parks overlap certain of the goals of CCC, such as preservation of Beards Hollow," said O'Neil. "But the major issue for CCC this past year - preservation of the Bolstad dunes - was not touched on."

O'Neil said State Parks indicated at its August meeting on the Peninsula that it intends to swap the Bolstad dunes when the opportunity presents itself again. For this reason, O'Neil said that members of Concerned Coastal Citizens all have a wait-and-see attitude - a positive but skeptical attitude based on recent experience.

"I think that the chances are good for Parks' purchase of Beards Hollow property," said O'Neil. "Development costs for RealVest appear to be too steep to make development economically feasible, thanks in large part to the inability to connect to the adjacent Seaview sewer lines. A lot of Peninsula residents have said this all along."

Parks: South Peninsula highest priority

According to Farber, lands north of Fort Canby State Park and up to the Seaview beach approach is land that has been identified as the highest priority area of conservation by State Parks.

"The reason is that it is more intact as a visual corridor than any other place nearby and already State Parks has lot of ownership in the area," said Farber. "The conservation of the Christensen property would be a significant contribution to accomplish the high priority objectives of the Commission."

According to Farber, State Parks has had an ongoing communication with Christensen and has indicated that it is interested in a trade with him for alternative property or purchasing the property.

"The steps we are taking is exploring alternative sites for trade and requesting funds to acquire the property outright," said Farber.

One of the properties that is being considered for trade is located in Clark County, according to Farber. He went on to say that there aren't any Peninsula properties being considered for trade at this time.

Parks' acquisition/consolidation efforts

According to Farber, the Seaview property that State Parks is interested in purchasing "belongs to a series of property owners - a series of piano keys." He went on to say that State Parks has not approached any of the property owners yet.

In a recent e-mail to a member of Concerned Coastal Citizens, Koss touched on State Parks' desire to consolidate piano keys in the Seaview area. He said that State Parks now needs to identify priorities and specific opportunities.

"As I understand it, Parks is going to start consolidating its piano key holdings in the dunes using that map that was produced last fall," said O'Neil. "A piano key came up for sale in Seaview and they are taking the first step in the consolidation process. This is great. One of the folks from the Seaview Coalition cued Parks into the availability of the parcel."

Koss said that although he was not the visible person associated with the proposed land swap this summer for the RealVest property, he was intimately involved in Olympia.

"You might have met Dick Fankhauser, who worked for me at the time in preparing the acquisition plan for the Long Beach Peninsula," said Koss. "I want to let you know the current status of our planning. We continue to work with Mr. Christensen to obtain his property. He remains a willing seller. He is open to exploring a different land exchange with us for that land, so we remain hopeful that in the future we can obtain his property."

Since the land swap failed in August, Christensen has moved ahead with building a road out to his Beards Hollow beachfront property, which O'Neil said could be a form of pressure on State Parks. She said this also could be a move by Christensen to increase the appraised value of the property by improving it.

State funding sought by Parks

Even though Sen. Sid Snyder, D-Long Beach, has pledged to try to allocate state funds for State Parks, the agency is moving ahead with its own efforts to obtain funding. It has already requested funding through the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC), which is a state committee dedicated to outdoor recreation.

"It is a separate agency of state government, and it is a conduit for wildlife open space recreation funds," said Farber. "It funds trails, state parks projects, special purpose projects in port districts, as well as waterfront access projects. Basically, it is a mechanism for requesting funds through the Legislature for open space recreation projects."

Farber said this would entail two separate funding requests from the IAC: One for the Christensen beachfront/upland properties and the other for the Seaview dunes property, an area from the Seaview access south to Fort Canby State Park.

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