Purchase of Hoypus Point property progresses —

Purchase of Hoypus Point property progresses

By Paul Boring; March 10, 2007 © Whidbey News Times

After a lengthy process rife with snags, the 52-acre Hoypus Hill property adjacent to Deception Pass State Park is ready for purchase. Almost.

Pat Powell, Whidbey Camano Land Trust executive director, updated the Board of Island County Commissioners on the project’s progress at a Wednesday staff session.

The Land Trust submitted an application last year asking for $790,000 in Conservation Futures funding to partially finance the purchase of the property that abuts Deception Pass State Park.

With three separate properties and different combinations of landowners, agreeing on a fair price presented a challenge.

Powell said the landowners and the Land Trust are nearing an agreement on the terms of the purchase.

“We’ve got a few details that still need to be resolved, but I’ve heard from two of the owners that there are no ‘deal breakers,’” she said. “However, nothing is guaranteed until the purchase agreement is signed.”

The property has been appraised at just over $1.1 million. Powell requested $752,000 from the county, a number that pleased Commissioner Mike Shelton.

“I like it when you’re heading in the right direction,” Shelton said, referring to the original request of nearly $800,000.

Washington State Parks will pony up $406,000 from a State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation grant, in addition to paying all associated expenses like closing costs, surveying and due diligence work. The state matching funds would not be available until the end of August.

Powell believes that the purchase price can be paid with the available state and county funds, but added that if there were a gap, the Land Trust would try to raise the additional funds as they did with the Wilbert Trail acquisition.

Last year the Land Trust, along with private citizens and organizations like Save The Trees, successfully raised enough money to close a funding gap for the Wilbert Trail property, a 7.3 acre parcel serving as an essential link in South Whidbey State Park’s trail network. The donations made up the difference between the appraised value of the property and the purchase price.

Modeled after the Wilbert Trail purchase, which also used Conservation Futures funding and state parks dollars, Powell said Hoypus Hill will be purchased by the latter entity and the county will hold a restrictive conservation easement.

The Hoypus Hill property would be used for public day access for recreational purposes, the Land Trust director said. The 52-acre property is a perfect fit for the existing state park, allowing the heavily-visited area more opportunities to provide for dispersed recreational use for both islanders and visitors.

The property also provides an excellent buffer between developed residential areas and the old growth forest that abuts two sides of the property.

“The conservation easement is specifically intended to provide additional appropriate loop trail opportunities on the property for non-motorized users, including hikers, bikers, and equestrians,” she said. “And it ensures that there is no entrance fee or other type of admission price to enter the state park from Angler’s Haven Drive, which is the way that you’d get into this new park addition.”

One small trailhead and parking lot would be allowed under the terms of the conservation easement. State Parks has worked closely with local stakeholders.

“Neighbors want this trailhead to be a secondary entrance to the park since it is adjacent to a residential area,” Powell said. “There are trailheads with large parking lots that already exist to gain access to the Hoypus unit of the park. We want to encourage people to come through the main part of the state park and keep this trailhead primarily for serving the local population.”

Once developed, the property will feature a loop trail, which is ideally suited for the land.

“The intention of State Parks, if they ever were able to acquire this property, was always to use it to provide loop trails specifically for horses and bicycle riders, because they can’t build through the natural forest,” Powell said. “They’ve determined they could make a loop trail work on this property.”

Shelton applauded Powell’s work, expressing his support for the project and echoing his two colleagues’ sentiments.

“Pat, again you’ve delivered and we are very, very thankful for all the work you do for us,” the commissioner said. “We know that you’re not a county employee, but still your efforts are very beneficial to this county. And this project, although it’s been a long one, is well, well worthwhile.”

The board of commissioners will vote on approval of the project at an April 2 regular meeting.

“If you’re ready, we’re ready,” Shelton said.

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