MCRA Funding 'On the Fence' —

MCRA Funding 'On the Fence'

By Natalie Johnson
Shelton Mason County Journal

As the Legislature revises drafts of Washington’s 2013-2015 budget, some local projects, proposed in the state’s capital budget, have uncertain futures.

Dozens of projects, including six in Mason County, were included in a $90 million capital budget request from the Washington Wildlife Recreation Program (WWRP).

With that money WWRP hopes to fund land acquisition at Fudge Point by Washington State Parks for $2.54 million; the acquisition of land for Kennedy Creek Natural Area by the state Department of Natural Resources for $973,087; the development of access to Lake Tahuya by the Department of Fish and Wildlife for $280,000; infield renovations to two baseball fields at MCRA for $275.000; Oakland Bay restoration by the Capitol Land Trust for $1 million; and a land acquisition at Skookum Estuary by the Squaxin Island Tribe for $130,000.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee recommended $75 million in funding for the WWRP in the 2013 capital budget, which would have funded all but the Skookum Estuary acquisition.

However, the Senate’s proposed budget includes $39.6 million in the capital budget for WWRP projects.

If passed, this would be the least funding allocated to the WWRP in the program’s 23-year history.

The state House’s proposed capital budget restores much of the funding, which was cut in the Senate’s proposed budget, allocating $70 million to the WWRP.

This would fund all local proposed projects except the Skookum Estuary acquisition, and leaves the MCRA project with an uncertain future.

“At that level, the MCRA infield project is literally on the fence,” said John Keates, Mason County director of facilities, parks and trails.

On Tuesday, the Mason County Board of commissioners voted unanimously to sign a letter to members of the legislature asking to put the budget appropriation for the proposed Fudge Point acquisition on hold.

Tim Sheldon, Mason county commissioner and state senator in the 35th District, raised several concerns about the project, including a lack of citizen support.

He also said the rural area on Harstine Island where Fudge Point is located does not have the infrastructure or county services to support more state park land.

“It would be a real issue for us in providing the resources that the locals provide,” he said.

Commissioner Terry Jeffreys, who has previously voiced her support of fully funding the WWRP’s requests for 2013, also voted to sign the letter asking the state Legislature to deny funding for Fudge Point.

“I would love to see that park happen,” she said.

According to the WWRP, the Legislature did not allocated more money to the program because few members of the public expressed support for the funding.

“Calls to our House and Senate members would be extremely helpful,” Keates said.

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