Harstine Island park to feature sandy beach
HARSTINE ISLAND — A new state park taking shape in Mason County comes ready-made with a major attraction: A sandy beach that park officials say is one of the best in the state park system.
The half-mile beach, which traces the edge of Fudge Point on Harstine Island, made crafting a development plan fairly simple.
“It’s going to be a 200-acre park that’s really about water access,” said Michael Hankinson, a Washington State Park planner leading the development process.
There might eventually be some camping spots and some parking, but the Fudge Point property’s preliminary development plan calls for as little development as possible. Only about 10 percent of its acreage is recommended for development.
“It’ll be a smaller-scale park that will always look kind of wild,” Hankinson said.
The property covers 137 acres but is likely to grow to 200 in the next few years. The first 58-acre waterfront section of the park was purchased for $2.2 million in late 2013. Additional sections were acquired last year. Funding for the purchases came from state grants channeled through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
The beach’s small lagoon and salt marsh provide valuable habitat for wildlife, particularly forage fish that serve as a key food source for salmon and marine mammals. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife habitat database indicates the area is used for seabird and eagle nesting and as a resting spot for seals. A variety of shellfish and fish also are listed. The lagoon, the plan states, serves “as the central core habitat in support of these animals.”
Deed restrictions prohibit the construction of docks, marinas and boat launches on the property’s shoreline.
About 6 acres of the property’s tidelands are owned by shellfish growers and were recently planted with geoducks. Planting cylinders protrude from the beach, but park officials say they’re only visible during low tide and won’t limit swimming or kayaking.
The upland area has steep slopes dominated by alders and young fir trees that took root after the property was logged in the mid-1980s.
The development plan calls for a campground and a few parking lots in the few flat sections of the uplands. About 25 camp sites would be confined to a wooded area almost a quarter-mile from the beach.
The property has a narrow, unpaved road from East Ballow Road to the beach. The 1.5-mile road will be paved and widened to allow two-way traffic and bike lanes.
Planning will determine the locations of parking areas, bathrooms and a possible trail network.
The park system won’t have money to make substantial improvements for at least two years. Hankinson said it might take five years before the road and parking improvements are completed.
Until then, the property likely will remain behind a locked gate and won’t have an official state park designation or name. Visitors can park alongside Ballow Road and walk into the park but vehicles are not allowed. Public access from the water is permitted.
There are no plans to connect the Fudge Point to Washington State Parks-owned properties less than a mile to the north, including the 12-acre McMicken Island State Park.
Harstine Island has an especially high concentration of state park lands. Along with McMicken and Fudge Point, Washington State Parks owns 56-acre Jarrell Cove State Park; a 100-acre property west of McMicken known as the Scott property; and a 471-acre property informally known as Harstine Island State Park.