State grants $3.9 million to county for outdoor preservation

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board announced the award of more than $126 million in grants to a suite of 333 projects that build and maintain outdoor recreation facilities and conserve wildlife habitat and working farms and forests around the state.

With the Legislature’s recent approval of the capital budget, grants are being distributed to cities, counties, state and federal agencies, tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations for projects in 37 of the state’s 39 counties.The grants were awarded through seven different grant programs. Revenue comes from a mix of federal grants, the sale of state bonds, gas taxes and user fees.

San Juan County will receive $3,987,448 for the following.

• $410,000 and $410,000 for the San Juan County Land Bank to help buy about 10 acres along the western shore of Lopez Island for a public beach and for launching hand-powered boats. The 7.35-mile western shore of Lopez Island largely is inaccessible because of high bluffs, rocky shoreline, and overwhelmingly private ownership. Only two-thirds mile is accessible from land, and the land to be purchased is the only remaining potential access point to the rest. Due to threat from vacation home development, the land was purchased in 2017, but about $450,000 is still owed to the seller. The land connects to 2 miles of public tideland currently reachable only by boat. This area is part of the Cascadia Marine Trail, but rarely is used because there is no way for paddlers to launch or take out. This project would fill that gap.

• $41,173 to hire 50 youth through Youth Conservation Corps to maintain 198 miles of backcountry trails across San Juan, Orcas and Lopez. Youth Conservation Corps crews offer a summer work opportunity for youth (ages 12-18) working and learning in the natural environment with mentoring from natural resource professionals, AmeriCorps crews, and Washington Trails Association volunteers.

• $1,226,800 to buy 55 acres on the Strait of Georgia next to Moran State Park on Orcas. Most of the shoreline along the strait is high-bank and buying this land will allow State Parks to extend the park’s trail system and give visitors access to the water, which isn’t possible in the park’s current boundaries. In addition, visitors will be able to get to this land from the water.

• $1,899,475 to buy 55.5 acres next to Obstruction Pass State Park on Orcas. Nearly doubling the size of the park, the land will allow for trail connections and will extend the public shoreline to Spring Bay. All of the shoreline in Obstruction State Park is high-bank and buying this land will enable parks to provide access for visitors to walk to the water.

In addition, funds have been allocated for the following in San Juan County: restoring prairie and grassland bald habitat at the Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area and enhancing volunteer stewardship to maintain hiking and motorized trails.

“Not only do these grants support our state’s parks, forests and farms, but they also fuel a powerful outdoor recreation economy that puts about 200,000 people to work and generates more than $26 billion in spending every year,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “At a time when public lands are more and more at risk of being developed or lost altogether, these grants prioritize our outdoor spaces so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy and protect them.”