Saratoga Woods to become county park

"It's not going to be a housing subdivision. It's not going to be a destination resort.What 48 acres of Saratoga woodland is going to be as of Saturday is an Island County park. With more than $600,000 in pledges and donations banked from a six-month fund drive, the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust is exercising its purchase option on the land known as the Saratoga Woods. At 1 p.m. Saturday, the land trust will symbolically transfer the acreage to Island County, a week before the organization turns over the actual title to the county's parks department.The purchase is one of two that land trust members hope to make during the next three months with the help of the group Save the Woods on Saratoga. Diane Kendy, a member of Save the Woods, said this week that her organization and the land trust have until mid-October to raise a grand total of $750,000, which buys not only the 48 acres being dedicated this weekend, but also another 70 acres.Slated at one time to be developed into a 137-home subdivision and later a 200-plus room destination resort, the 118 acres that comprise the Saratoga Woods property will become a woodland park if the land trust and Save the Woods are successful. The first 48 acres, which includes an old farmstead, a section of waterfront property, and a trails easement to the Metcalf trust lands is guaranteed to become public property because the two groups have already raised the $531,000 price asked by the land's owner, Resource Group, Inc.The remainder, if it is purchased, includes an old, unpaved airfield and a large stand of second-growth trees. Kendy said she is confident her organization can raise the funds to purchase the additional acreage.Last week, land trust and Save the Woods volunteers combed for garbage in the woods, brambles, and tall grass on the property. A popular illegal dumping ground for garbage and derelict cars and appliances for the past decade, the Saratoga Woods were in need of a good cleanup for Saturday's ceremony, Kendy said. Found items included a large oil tank, car tires, sheet metal, rusted fencing and bags of household garbage. The volunteers spent so much time cleaning two acres near Saratoga Road that they were not able to put a dent in the largest dumping area - the airfield.Saturday's celebration should take care of that. Those attending the event are encouraged to bring sturdy shoes and gloves to help load garbage into pickup trucks and a dump truck headed for Island Recycling.It will be some time before the land becomes a functioning county park. Lee McFarland, Island County's parks director, said Tuesday that his department will do some work this summer or fall to control access to the property to prevent vandalism and illegal dumping. The department will then get funding for the park in next year's budget. He said land trust members have verbally agreed to provide some money for future park facilities.In the foreseeable future, McFarland said, the park will be a low-maintenance, low-impact park. Conservation easements, which will be held in perpetuity by the land trust, will assure that most of the new park remains in a natural state, Kendy said.Those celebrating the land purchase are invited to attend a potluck party Saturday night at Dick and Cynthia Tilkins' home at 3921 Saratoga Road. The party starts at 6 p.m. "

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