Purchase of Realvest property is an investment in Peninsula's future livability

Some land obviously is cut out to be park, and nothing else. So it is with 80 acres formally acquired this month by Washington state on the northern edge of Cape Disappointment State Park.

In contrast to its long, skinny, mostly flat blade, the southern hilt of the Peninsula is a place of dramatic cliffs and half-submerged giant rocks - scenery more in common with Cannon Beach than Long Beach.

Thanks to its fortuitous - highly contentious at the time - acquisition by the U.S. Army in the 1852, the north side of the mouth of the Columbia escaped piecemeal development. With the Army's gift of it after World War II, Washington acquired one of its most popular state parks, a half-wild domain visited by many tens of thousands of people every summer.

Along with adjoining lands still technically in federal ownership but managed by the state, Cape Disappointment State Park contains everything from old-growth temperate rain forest, to wide-open beaches, to rare undeveloped coastal dunes.

So exceptional is Cape Disappointment that it has achieved the national distinction of inclusion in the Confluence Project, with architect Maya Lin leading efforts to design features paying tribute to American Indian tribes, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the park's own magnificent beauty.

One of the basic facts of life in land planning is that you can't save everything, and new developments are springing up in the vicinity of the park, some well thought out and others less so. Development of 80 acres owned by Realvest Corp. of Vancouver, Wash., appeared destined to detract from the park by bringing high-intensity housing right into the midst of semi-primitive Beards Hollow, a park area of accreted dunes and steep rocks.

This Realvest parcel is the land Washington bought this month for $2.1 million, funds initiated by former Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder of Long Beach before his retirement. Other prime land within the city of Long Beach, which the state parks department at one time thought to trade for the Realvest property, now is a city park. As it turns out, the Peninsula can have its cake and eat it, too, by having both a wise expansion of the state park and a new municipal park.

If history is any guide, a growing community can't have too much parkland. Keeping what we have and setting more aside when we can will add immeasurably to the pleasure of living here - for ourselves and for future generations. Some other smaller parcels remain undeveloped around Cape Disappointment, and ought to be added to the park without delay.

With accelerating private development, this may be the last major park expansion on the Peninsula's south end. It was a long, convoluted and, at times, acrimonious process. But it was worth it.

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