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Public land at Possession off limits

"This sign and gate tells the public to keep out of newly-purchased public land at Possession Point. The land, which is supposed to become a park within the next two years, is off limits until it is developed.Matt Johnson / staff photoCall it the park that isn't.Twenty-five acres of public land purchased at Possession Point in early May by the state's Parks and Recreation Department will not be open to South Whidbey residents for at least two years, even though some of the money used to buy it was donated by a South Whidbey nonprofit group.The park, which is to be developed on the old Albertson estate at the end of Franklin Road, is to become part of the Cascadia Marine Trail, a collection of parks that are easily accessed by kayak or canoe. But the park is not open yet, nor will it be until 2003.What this means, said Thuy Luu Beams, a spokesperson for the state parks department, is that the Albertson property is off limits to the public until her agency finishes future improvements to the property. This is a reversal in the agency's position in May. Just days after the state bought the land, former parks spokesperson Anne Hersley said the land was technically open to people who wanted to walk or paddle onto the property.Last month, state personnel erected a gate across the driveway to the property and posted a sign stating that public entry was forbidden. Luu Beams said her agency made the move for safety and security reasons. She noted that there is a house on the property and that there are no parking or restroom facilities.It will take at least two years to plan and develop the park to the point at which the public can use it, she said. Planning is expected to start sometime this year.Clinton's Bill Couch said he doesn't like the No Trespassing sign posted on the property. He said he is worried the public will not get full access to the park now or in the future, even though public dollars were used to purchase it. The state paid $1.1 million toward the property while a South Whidbey nonprofit, the Goosefoot Community Fund, pumped another $300,000 into the purchase. Couch said he hopes the state will not make the property a kayak-only park. Hikers, campers, and picnickers should also be able to enjoy the state's new acquisition.It's a beautiful piece of property, he said. It's just a jewel down there.Luu Beams said the state has made no specific plans for the new park beyond its being a stopover for human-powered boats. "

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