A family splash through the shallows of Port Susan Bay off of Barnum Point at low tide. Island County is considering adding another 40 acres to the plan for 129 acres. (Benj Drummond / The Nature Conservancy)

A family splash through the shallows of Port Susan Bay off of Barnum Point at low tide. Island County is considering adding another 40 acres to the plan for 129 acres. (Benj Drummond / The Nature Conservancy)

Nearly $1M price tag for 40-acre expansion to Camano park

The park was set to grow from 27 acres to 129 acres. The public can weigh in before Tuesday meeting.

CAMANO ISLAND — The vision of expanding Barnum Point County Park from 27 to 129 acres is nearing reality and planners are eyeing another 40 acres they say would help preserve habitat, provide a shop for park equipment and improve public access.

About three years ago, work began to add to Barnum Point, on the east side of Camano Island at Triangle Cove.

Island County owned 27 acres there, acquired with help from the Nature Conservancy. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust bought adjacent properties that were entangled in bankruptcy proceedings. Those now are part of the park.

The Barnum family, which settled the area in the early 1900s, committed to selling their land as well. Negotiations for those parcels are in the works. One of them — where the Inn at Barnum Point stood — has been added to the park, and the inn demolished. Work is scheduled next week to remove a concrete slab and check the area for historic or cultural artifacts, said Steve Marx, assistant public works director for Island County.

Though the original park remains accessible to the public off Sunrise Boulevard, the newer additions have not yet officially opened. Marx said the goal is to open some areas soon, with a full park opening next summer. An expansion of the parking area, which currently fits about six cars, should be done by then, he said.

Island County Commissioners on Tuesday plan to consider public comment on whether to direct dollars from the 2018 Conservation Futures budget toward further enlarging the park. The proposed $650,000 grant would go toward the purchase of 40 acres on the north end of Barnum Point. That land was not included in the original goal of 129 acres, but was identified as an ideal future purchase if it became available, Marx said.

The property owners approached the land trust last summer to ask if the group was interested in buying, according to the grant application. Since then, the timeline has tightened due to the family’s need to sell.

Along with the grant, an estimated $280,000 from the county’s road fund and Real Estate Excise Tax could go toward the purchase, which includes a 3,000-square-foot shop that is in “outstanding condition,” Marx said.

Parks staff would move their equipment from the Camano Annex to that shop.

Planners estimate it would cost $990,000 for the purchase, appraisal, survey, removal of invasive holly and demolition of two houses. There are more than 700 holly trees, and removing them would protect habitat in the existing park where the plants have begun to spread, Marx said.

Longterm, if the 40 acres become part of the park, it could offer space for more parking, restrooms and a trailhead, according to the grant application.

Barnum Point County Park includes bluff trails and beach access.

Habitat will be preserved with the ongoing expansion, said Ryan Elting, conservation director for the land trust.

“Barnum Point really will be the county’s signature park,” he said. “It’s got great opportunities for hiking and beach combing and nature viewing.”

Grants and private donations fueled the roughly $6 million project to grow the park to 129 acres. Now, it could become nearly 170 acres.

“Be patient. Wait for it,” Marx said. “When it’s done, it’s just going to be a hallmark location and park for Island County and Washington State.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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