Camas hopes state will pay for new trail
-- Camas Parks and Recreation Manager Jerry Acheson is crossing his fingers that the Legislature will feel generous this year.
The fate of a regional trail connecting the city with a bridge over the Washougal River, a proposed Camas-Washougal community center and a park along the Columbia River is at stake.
A state grant totaling nearly $900,000 would help the city begin work on the trail within its 125-acre Washougal River Greenway this year. Even without the grant, the city will proceed this year with building a pedestrian bridge over the Washougal River that will also carry pipes for a municipal water project.
"The bridge will come first," Acheson said. "But right now, we would have a bridge to nowhere."
Clark County stands to gain other new trails, neighborhood pocket parks, and prairie and oak reserves -- 10 projects in all, totaling more than $6.5 million -- under full funding of a unique land acquisition program.
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, established 16 years ago by former Washington Govs. Dan Evans and Mike Lowry, provides state grants to purchase land for parks and trails, fish and wildlife habitat, and protection of threatened ecosystems.
Over those 16 years, the program has provided more than $450 million in grants to fund nearly 800 projects. Those grants have leveraged another $620 million in local and federal grants.
Full funding of $100 million for the program is one of the top legislative priorities of Washington environmental groups this year. Gov. Chris Gregoire included $70 million for the program in her budget -- twice the amount appropriated in the 2005-07 budget cycle.
House Speaker Frank Chopp said last week that he supports full funding and that he believes the House will appropriate $100 million for the 2007-09 budget period.
This year's wish list includes projects in all but one of Washington's 39 counties, said Mike Ryherd, a lobbyist for the 135-member Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which advocates on behalf of the program. The coalition's members include Boeing, Weyerhaeuser Co., REI and the Washington Association of Realtors, as well as dozens of environmental and hunting and fishing organizations and individuals.
Competition for funding is more intense than ever because the program was recently expanded to include farmland and riparian restoration projects, Ryherd said.
Projects nominated for funding are ranked in importance by the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation. That means that at whatever level of funding the Legislature provides, it can be sure of funding the best projects, Ryherd said.
Jeroen Kok, regional parks planner for Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation, said the grants are invaluable, especially as the city and county race to set aside park land in fast-growing new neighborhoods.
"In a lot of cases, we are looking at neighborhoods that are near build-out," he said. "It's often a struggle to find willing sellers. And with escalating land prices, it becomes critical that we get these grants to close that gap."
Most county and city park projects require local matching funds. Projects proposed by the state Department of Natural Resources to protect fish and wildlife habitat or rare ecosystems do not.
Kathie Durbin covers state government. Reach her at 360-586-2437 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the numbers
At the $70 million level proposed by the governor, Clark County would receive, in ranked order:
• $522,815 toward acquiring 63 acres on Fifth Plain Creek, including 26 acres of stream banks and buffers, wetlands and uplands damaged by grazing and farm practices. The project would restore 24 acres, with the rest held in reserve for future restoration.
• $509,115 toward acquiring 52 acres of shoreline, riparian and flood plain habitat along the East Fork of the Lewis River and Dean Creek, a small tributary, three miles southeast of La Center.
• $391,695 toward acquiring 67.5 acres of shoreline, riparian and wetland habitat on Lacamas Lake bordering the 350-acre Lacamas Lake Regional Park.
• $1,787,196 to acquire 150 acres of rare native oak woodland east of Washougal at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge that is home to rare plants and animals.
• $1.3 million to acquire 224 acres of wet prairie known as Lacamas Prairie, a remnant of an ecosystem threatened by development. The prairie harbors one of the state's largest populations of an endangered plant, Bradshaw's Lomatium.
• $468,304 toward acquiring 4.42 acres of flat open meadow for a neighborhood park to serve South Fishers Landing, a high-density area of houses and apartments.
• $300,000 to begin development of 35 acres of what will become an 88-acre park in the rapidly developing Fairgrounds Community of north Vancouver. The park will include ball courts, picnic areas and more than three miles of trails.
At the $100 million level, these additional projects would be funded:
• $899,000 to begin development of the regional trail through the 125-acre Washougal River Greenway in Camas. The project will include a boardwalk and surfaced trails as well as the pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Washougal River, funded separately by the city.
• $108,306 for phase 4 of Marine Park on the Columbia River near downtown Vancouver. The money will be used to develop trails, picnic sites, a viewpoint and beach access at the 69-acre park.
• $220,200 toward purchase of 2.4 acres for a small neighborhood park located in the densely populated East Image neighborhood of north Vancouver.
On the Web: http://www.wildliferecreation.org.
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