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Neighbors of potential park weigh in

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Residents sound off on Fudge Point park proposal on Harstine Island

Development of a 136-acre state park at Fudge Point on Harstine Island could provide public access to a pristine beach, estuary and wooded uplands, according to Washington State Parks and Recreation.

Some residents worry, however, the move could lead to increased traffic, tourists and damage to working shellfish beaches on the rural island.

"Having a state park for a neighbor stinks," Harstine Island resident Suzan Felton said.

About 100 Harstine Island residents turned out for a Washington State Parks public meeting Monday at the Mason County PUD 3 Operations Center at 2621 E. Johns Prairie Road in Shelton.

Washington State Parks is beginning a seven-month process to create a classification and management plan for the future park.

"I'd rather have a state park than 200 developed homes," Harstine resident Nick Neuerburg said.

Some residents expressed concerns similar to Felton's. Others asked that a future park be limited to day-use and have full-time park staff.

"This planning process is intended to work that out," said project lead Michael Hankinson, of Washington State Parks. "It's actually a problem that's solved through working together with the community."

During the meeting, Hankinson gave an update on the project.

State parks acquired the 136-acre property in two pieces in 2013 and 2014 using state funding.

The property is 136 acres, including about 60 acres of beachfront property and 76 acres of uplands.

Washington State

Parks and Recreation received more than $2 million from the National Coastal Wetlands Grant to acquire the 136-acre property.

In 2013, State Parks received an additional $2.54 million for Fudge Point from the Washington Wildlife Conservation Program. Hankinson said the terms of the grant prevent Washington State Parks from adding beach improvements such as a pier or boat launch.

The land includes more than 3,000 linear feet of shoreline and a "pocket estuary," which is home to salmon species, Hankinson said.

"Fudge Point is really an amazing kind of landscape," he said. "It's a very special place. It's a unique place."

Some residents asked why State Parks is acquiring and developing new property when funding is low for existing parks.

"Right now the finances aren't good," Hankinson said.

However, Hankinson said state agencies expect growth of about 2 million people by 2030. He said Washington State Parks is trying to grow to anticipate that increase in population.

The classification and management plan is expected to include several steps.

First, State Parks must determine the zoning for the park. Zoning classifications are recreation, resource recreation, natural area, heritage area, natural forest areas and natural area preserves.

Recreation areas allow the most access from the public, for uses such as camping, while natural area preserves allow very little access.

"Each classification has things that are permitted and not," Hankinson said.

Next, staff will need to determine the long-term boundary of the park. This represents the state's vision for the future of the park, Hankinson said, and could include land the state might acquire in the future.

In the long term, Hankinson said Washington State Parks would consider connecting its three properties on the east side of Harstine Island. Those properties are, from north to south, Harstine Island State Park, the Scott property and Fudge Point.

"That's my family, and we're not going to sell it to you, so forget it," Felton said.

Felton, whose family owns the Gaser Oyster Co. said her family has a problem with shellfish poachers on their beach. She said more state park land would increase the problem.

Washington State Parks could chose not to develop the park after the planning process is complete.

"This is not saying we're going to do anything at all," said Rodger Schmitt, State Parks and Recreation commissioner.

Hankinson said the area is accessible by an existing logging road. The area was logged about 20 years ago. State Parks would likely work with Mason County to improve access roads if and when the park is developed, he said.

The property is also unique among state lands on the island because the path to the beach at Fudge Point has a gentle slope, Hankinson said.

Washington State

Parks will schedule its next meeting with Harstine Island residents in January, Hankinson said.

"Everything you say is highly influential in the planning process," he said Monday. "All the issues you have brought forth, we have to address."

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Original Publication Date: October 30, 2014

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