Newest Island County state park opens June 21 —

Newest Island County state park opens June 21

Pacific Northwest Reporter, June 16, 2008

Sapphire-hued water and vast, open sky shimmering with the same blue highlight Cama Beach situated between them. Quaint cabins line a long stretch of beach, where waves lap gently to the rhythm of comfort and adventure.

The grand opening of Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 21. The opening ceremony will be from 2 to 3 p.m. at the park. Displays, activities and food will be available throughout the day, including a toy boat building program with the Center for Wooden Boats.

"Everyone on Camano Island is excited. We're really fortunate to have this area saved," said John Dean, Island County commissioner. His district includes Camano Island.

It's the first new state park in Island County since the opening of Joseph Whidbey State Park on Whidbey Island, and is the second on Camano Island.

Cama Beach State Park is managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. The old resort area is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a rich history.

For 2,000 years, the site was a Native American shellfish, hunting and gathering area. In the late 1800s, it was a logging operation. Between the 1930s and 1989, it was used as a family fishing resort.

Dean was one of the last people to spend a weekend at that resort.

"It was like walking around an antique place," Dean said.

The state began acquiring the property in the 1990s, through purchase and donation from the Hamalainen and Worthington families, who owned and operated the former resort. Without their help, the Cama Beach area would have become another housing development. The families have since donated further funds for park development.

A stay at the park is meant to whisk both day and overnight visitors back in time to the 1930s fishing resort experience that was the norm at the park for 50 years.

"You feel like you're back in the 1930s with all the little cabins lined up on the beach," Dean said.

Fifty original cedar buildings were renovated, 24 of which are cabins. Available for rent are 24 rustic waterfront cabins and seven cabins with indoor plumbing. The park features a day-use area, a new welcome station and a shuttle shelter.

"The infrastructure is tastefully done. They kept the classic park look," said Dean.

At the park, go for a scenic hike and bring a picnic, or partake in the park's historical purpose through fishing or shellfish harvesting. A variety of educational programs will be available, too, including stories of Native people in the area by local tribes.

The Center for Wooden Boats, a non-profit wooden boat museum in Seattle, will have a satellite location at Cama Beach adapted to that community. They will provide rental wooden boats on some days throughout the summer and hands-on history and activity programs, including boat-construction lessons.

"The center is interested in promoting traditional maritime skills through hands-on experience," said Greg Reed, Cama Beach manager.

This is their pilot year at Cama Beach, so they will be offering more programs and boat rentals in following years. The Center for Wooden Boats has partnered with the park since 1991. The organization has contributed more than 3,000 hours of volunteer labor at the park and restored six of the original Cama Beach Resort boats.

The Cama Beach State Park project is worth $35.2 million, including $16.4 million in property value and $18.8 million in construction dollars. Funding for the project is a combination of donations and state funds, including state capital dollars and loans and grants from the Recreation Conservation Funding Board through the Washington Wildlife Recreation Program. The project was delayed when Indian artifacts were found.

Other community partners include Island Transit, Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Beach Watchers, Cama Beach Furniture Builders, Cama Beach Quilters, Camano Island Chamber of Commerce, Stanwood Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Camano Island Parks, the North Cascades Institute, Shore Stewards, Skagit County Native Plant Society, Stanwood/Camano Island Historical Society, Washington State Parks Foundation, Washington Water Trails Association, Waste Wise and many others. Hundreds of volunteers have contributed to the development of the park.

"It's a great thing for the state and for Camano and Whidbey islands. They're planning to put in a public dock and it'll be fun for Whidbey Islanders to come over and take a look. It will be a new gateway between the two islands," Dean said.
Limited parking will be available at the park for the opening event. Attendees should walk or catch provided shuttles to help with traffic.

The park is located at 1880 SW Camano Dr., west of Stanwood, approximately 19 miles from the freeway. For information or activity reservations, call 360-387-1550. For further information on boat rentals or activities by the Center for Wooden Boats, visit

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