CAMANO ISLAND — The vision for a new 129-acre park at Triangle Cove, complete with several miles of bluff trails and a mile of waterfront on Port Susan, is getting closer to reality.
Island County, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy have been working for years to expand Barnum Point Park. The county owns 27 acres acquired with help from the conservancy. In the past couple of years, the land trust bought up two neighboring properties, totaling 72 acres, that were going through bankruptcy proceedings and at risk of being sold to private interests.
The plan is to open the properties owned by the county and land trust to the public in mid-September, said Steve Marx, assistant director of public works for Island County. Eventually, all of the land would be transferred to the county’s ownership.
Another 30 acres at the point are owned by the Barnum family, which settled the land in the early 1900s. The Barnums have agreed to sell those last four properties to complete the park expansion, once funding is available.
The Island County Board of Commissioners recently approved a $500,000 Conservation Futures grant for the park, and $1 million in National Coastal Wetlands Conservation funds have been promised for the project, said Ryan Elting, conservation director with the land trust. However, the federal dollars are held up because they require a state match, and that money is part of a state capital budget that has not yet been approved by lawmakers.
Expanding the park to 129 acres is expected to cost roughly $6 million. That total includes grants, donations and a loan previously used to purchase the properties that were in bankruptcy proceedings.
“If the funding that we think would be approved in the state budget comes through, and with the federal funds that we have, it would almost get us there,” Elting said.
The land trust also has pledged $150,000 to the county for long-term management of the park. The county and trust have been working together on a formal plan for maintaining the public space.
Some minor improvements already are under way, such as adding fencing along some of the high bluff. Buildings have been removed, including a house that was on the shore and another on the bluff. Once the remaining properties are purchased, more structures would be taken out. That includes the Inn at Barnum Point.
“Our goal is to get them repurposed if possible, but that’s not always possible,” Elting said. “If not, we try to get as much as we can dismantled and reused and recycled.”
Elting has led tours out at the point. People seem impressed by the area and excited by the possibilities of additional public access, he said.
“It is an amazing opportunity to create this public space on a place that hasn’t been very heavily touched,” he said.
Eventually, the county plans to add more parking to make that access possible. Planners are considering a new lot near the north end of the park, Marx said. There are no plans to add to the existing trail network, but current paths would be maintained. The park also is a natural area where habitat for marine animals, waterfowl and shorebirds will be preserved.
“It’s an absolute gem of a piece of property,” Marx said. “Once it’s all finally put together and set up, it’ll be a hallmark place to visit on Camano Island.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.