No Southend conservation projects planned

No South Whidbey land purchase projects will be getting conservation futures funding in 2002, partially because nobody asked.

Only two applications for Island County conservation futures funding were received by the Island County Parks Department this year. Totaling $83,000, the land purchases -- in Oak Harbor and on Camano Island -- barely tap the $400,000 available.

The county's conservation futures ordinance was passed in the early 1990s as a way for government and nonprofit agencies to preserve undeveloped land for public use and recreation. Property taxes support the ordinance, with conservation revenues collected at a rate .625 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

In the past, conservation futures money purchased the Greenbank Farm, the Ala Spit off Jones Road, 37 acres of wetland known as the Freund Property and 80 acres of forested land near Libby Road. The money also purchased land for the Maxwelton Creek Outdoor Classroom.

After the purchase of the Greenbank Farm, the Island County commissioners made it clear they would not entertain any South Whidbey conservation futures for several years.

Island County parks Director Lee McFarland said last week that Island County plans to use $28,000 to buy two parcels of tidelands on north end of Camano Island. The city of Oak Harbor is requesting $55,000 to purchase several easements in the area of City Beach in order to complete construction on the city's waterfront trail.

The application cycle for funding closed Feb. 28. McFarland said he has received as many as four applications for conservation futures money in the past.

Properties purchased with conservation futures may be used only for passive recreational use, meaning such properties cannot be converted to such things as ball fields.

Even if the Board of Island County Commissioners approve both applications after a review process this spring, the $83,000 doesn't make much of a dent in this year's revenue, McFarland said.

"We will have money remaining in the account," McFarland said. "We also are paying debt services on some previous purchases."

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