The Key Peninsula is once again on the list to receive Department of Natural Lands forestland property to be used as local parks. The two parcels are the 350-acre Horseshoe Lake property that was previously in line to be transferred to the Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District, and a 60-acre site called Maple Hollow, which has been on the “wish list” for local parks for a long time.

The state Legislature included the property dubbed Horseshoe Lake in its 2005-07 appropriation through the Trust Land Transfer program, which funds public schools in the state. The total package for any given biennium must average an 80/20 ratio for timber/land value.

“Horseshoe Lake has unique value issues that we didn’t anticipate when the property was nominated for the Trust Land Transfer program over two years ago,” Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland wrote in October 2006 in reply to an email from KPMPD Commissioner Kip Clinton. “During the appraisal process, our geologist informed us the property was situated on top of a valuable deposit of sand and gravel. This value must be factored into the total value of the property at transfer. In addition, rapidly increasing land values increased the property value beyond budgeted expectations. For these reasons, there are insufficient funds in the current appropriation to transfer the property.”

Horseshoe Lake was one of several properties on the 2005-’07 list that did not get transferred and are included in the 2007-09 package. However, instead of being part of an outright transfer, both Horseshoe Lake and Maple Hollow are listed among five properties for “lease transfers.” The lease would expire in 30 years.

The estimated value of the Horseshoe Lake property is $9.35 million (vs. $3.42 million estimated two years ago), and the Maple Hollow is estimated at $1.95 million, largely due to its waterfront location.

“The lease option… applies the entire lease value to the school construction fund (vs. only the timber value) so that it doesn’t reduce the timber to land value ratio. This is one way we can transfer such high land value properties in this program and meet legislative intent,” Sutherland wrote.

At the end of 30 years, the properties would return to DNR ownership, and would need to be transferred again via legislative appropriation in order for KPMPD to continue their use, according to Evert Challstedt, DNR project manager for the Trust Land Transfer program. The park district has been lobbying legislators for a way to acquire the properties instead.

The total package this year includes 33 properties for an appropriation of $100 million. It is up to the Legislature how much of that to fund. Except for the 1989-91 biennium when the Trust Land Transfer program originated, with an appropriation of $171.5 million, the highest amount the Legislature has funded is $66 million.

Clinton said park commissioners would like to see the properties transferred to KPMPD outright, but thinks the district would accept them through the lease. “At least it takes the properties off the real estate market,” she said. “It gives us time (to find a permanent acquisition solution) and if nothing else, the properties will not be (commercially) developed.”

She said the district is not likely to invest a lot of capital funding, however, if they only receive a lease, and would probably make minimum improvements during the lease. Maple Hollow already has interpretative signs, and according to KPMPD Executive Director Scott Gallacher could be used for passive recreation and environmental education. Previous plans for Horseshoe Lake included potential ball fields, fairgrounds, and a skate park.

In the meantime, the district is trying to identify other local properties for potential future acquisition, and is asking residents interested in preserving their land as open space to contact KPMPD. The commissioners are also asking residents to complete the parks survey (published in the February issue of the KP News and available online at www.keypeninsulaparks.com) by April 2.

“We are still thinking big,” Clinton said. “We can’t do anything else, however, without a park system plan and we encourage everyone to turn in the February survey as soon as possible.”

(Right before press time, the KPMPD received a call from DNR stating the Horseshoe Lake property would probably be pulled from the list, due to its high value. The KP News will provide details in the April issue.)

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