Reversing a decision made last month, Island County commissioners moved forward Monday with grant applications to acquire beach access properties adjacent to Glendale.
Commissioner Jill Johnson originally opposed the grant applications saying that she did not want the county to be responsible for the maintenance of any additional properties.
But with the assurances of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust to maintain the properties, Johnson said she felt comfortable approving the request.
“My concern centered on Island County being the underlying owner,” Johnson said. “We’re not taking care of what we have.”
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust is applying for grants through the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office to the Local Parks Grant Program. The county must approve of the grant applications because it will need to hold an easement on the property if money is issued for the project.
The commissioners revoted and the motion passed 2-1 with Commissioner Kelly Emerson opposing. The grants will be submitted in partnership with the land trust, which will be the underlying owner of the property, while the county will simply hold a recreation easement.
Commissioner Helen Price Johnson added the item to Monday’s agenda, saying that she wanted the commissioners to reconsider the decision that was very important to her district.
“I very much appreciate your support,” Price Johnson told Johnson Monday. “It protects county resources and it’s the best possible alternative in this situation.”
Price Johnson said that not only will the acquisition provide beach access to residents, but it would make it easier for the county to stabilize an area that is prone to flooding and mudslides.
“If we don’t apply for the grant and make no effort to take this flow bank … these questions will be asked of us,” Price Johnson said. “It’s an opportunity we should not let go by.”
Johnson restated her position that her approval hinged on making sure the county did not end up on the hook for the properties down the road.
“The County is not investing any public funds in this project, including conservation futures,” Johnson said in a statement emailed later. “This is a project of Whidbey Camano Land Trust. It involves their funds and their ability to obtain a grant. Additionally, if the grant is awarded, the county will hold a recreation easement on the property [a requirement of the grant] but it will not be the property owner nor will the county be responsible for any maintenance or improvements related to the property. That will also be the responsibility of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.”
The properties, if acquired, will offer the public more than 400 feet of beach access and scenic views, according to a press release from the land trust. Depending on the type of funding the land trust is able to acquire, there may also be a small concrete boat launch for small motorized and non-motorized boats. All told, the acquisition will depend on funding coming from several state grant sources, as well as private donations and loans. The grant applications approved Monday total $900,000.
Mike McVay of Island Beach Access applauded the commissioners’ decision, calling Glendale “one of the most significant locations on Whidbey Island.”
“I would like to thank Pat Powell of Whidbey Camano Land Trust for her diligence in pursuing this rare opportunity,” McVay said via email. “Also thanks to Helen Price Johnson for her steadfast support, and especially Jill Johnson’s rational vote of support. That is good leadership by good leaders.”
Emerson, who attended by teleconferencing from Camano Island, made no comment on the issue and packed up her belongings and left the meeting before it adjourned. Emerson said she needed to leave the meeting early in order to make it to Coupeville for another meeting.