Mason County Parks Receives $1.63 Million in State Grants
The Coulter Creek Estuary, home to various wildlife including rare species, is one of the last undeveloped properties on North Bay.
SHELTON — The state Legislature allocated more than $1.63 million total from several funding sources in the last session for Mason County Parks and Trails improvement and acquisition projects. Last week, the Washington State Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board approved the recommendations, which include grants for Mason County Recreation Area, Harstine Island and Union boat launches and the acquisition of Coulter Creek Estuary on North Bay.
“Considering the funding environment in Olympia and the uncertainty with the state budget, we’ve done quite well,” said John Keates, parks program manager. “I’m elated.”
Coulter Creek Estuary received the largest amount — $450,000 each from the Wildlife Recreation Program and the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account. The 50-acre site, located at the head of North Bay on Case Inlet, is one of the last undeveloped properties in the area and has been owned by the same family for 90 years.
The Coulter Creek watershed was named a watershed “of greatest ecological integrity” by the West Sound Watersheds Council and tabbed as a priority for conservation by Mason and Kitsap counties, the Squaxin Island Tribe and the communities of Allyn and Victor, according to a news release by the Allyn Community Association, which will partially fund, along with Taylor Shellfish Farms of Shelton, boardwalks and interpretive signs on the site.
The site’s owners, the Overton family, are tree-farm owners who have had land in the watershed for four generations. In the 1930s, the site was used for storing logs, according to the ACA. The property has been left in its natural state for more than seven decades.
“Our family recognized a long time ago that the Coulter Creek estuary was one of the most pristine sites on Case Inlet and needed to be protected from development,” David Overton, managing Partner of Overton & Associates, said in a statement. “Our family philosophy is to grow trees and create jobs but also to build long-term value in the surrounding community. We made the conscious choice to not sell this property many years ago because there was a higher use for the land.”
The site includes salt marsh and mudflats that are home to rare bird and fish species, and will become part of the planned North Bay Trail system that will wind from the Port of Allyn. Keates said planned infrastructure will include trails and access to the water via canoe or kayak in high tide, but for the most part the property would be left in its natural condition.
The $900,000 grants are estimated to cover the purchase price; however, a formal appraisal is still to be completed. Keates estimates that the acquisition process could wrap up within 12 to 15 months once work begins this summer.
“Waterfront property is hard to come by so we were lucky to find funding sources and partners for this project,” he said, adding that many volunteers worked on the process.
MCRA received $275,500 toward the renovation of fields 2 and 3 on the infield. The county must match the grant in an equal amount, and Keates said the county has funds from real estate excise taxes (REET) for parks capital projects. He estimates work to begin on the project in August with bid collection, design and engineering, and groundbreaking to follow in September. Any leftover funds from the field improvements will be used for other projects at the recreation area.
Latimer’s Landing Boat Launch at the Harstine Island bridge received a $400,000 state boost that will require a 25 percent match. The project had an allocation previously in the last state budget but the money was diverted to cover the state budget shortfall. The grant will pay for extending the limited parking and other improvements and work is expected to begin by the end of summer, with construction work starting after the fishing season ends.
For the Union boat launch, the Legislature provided $61,250 for the planning and design of future improvements. The money will pay for permitting, engineering and other planning elements.
Also in the works is a future acquisition of Sunset Bluff, 36 acres of waterfront property on Oakland Bay. The land is owned by the Trust for Public Land, which is working with the county on the project.