Imagine the scene: A 93-acre jewel in the middle of the Puget Sound, a pristine forest with primitive trails, few signs of civilization, different habitats for wildlife and birdwatchers, and passive recreation activities, all preserved for posterity. That’s what lies in store for the Key Peninsula…if. Yes, there are some big “ifs” before such a scene becomes reality, but several groups and individuals have been working for a few months to make it happen.
The Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District, following the lead of the Key Peninsula Park and Recreation District in 1999, passed a resolution in August to support the acquisition of property known as “Devil’s Head Properties” for future park designation.
Don Duprey, director of Conservation Programs with the Great Peninsula Conservancy, told the KP News, “The Great Peninsula Conservancy hasn’t yet started serious negotiations with the owners; but they have listed the property for sale, and they know of our interest.
“The application for funding through conservancy futures is likely to be successful, but that is speculative at this time…The KP Metropolitan Park District is the logical entity to keep an eye on the property,” he added.
Grant Griffin, senior planner with Pierce County Parks and Recreation department, acknowledged that the property is on the top 10 priority list, but that the Conservations Futures Advisory Board has not determined the order of priority. He expects that recommendation by the end of September.
Caril Ridley, commissioner for KPMPD, makes a case for conservation of the varied environment, and preservation of this nearly mile-long Park district sets eye on new park beach, “an environmental gem.” The first survey expedition to the “Indian Peninsula” referred to the southern tip as “Park Point” and Ridley has encouraged the Conservations Futures board members to make it a park, preserved for generations to come. Hearing that conservation futures were being considered, Ridley has initiated an environmental survey to study the delicate nature of Devils Head’s lagoon, spit and upland biomes. She said, “We need to better understand the human impact on these sensitive regions,” and stressed the point that “once these areas are gone, they are gone for good.”
For several years, the Key Peninsula’s Trails Association has been designing regional trails that terminate at Devil’s Head, located at the most-southern tip of Key Pen. “This is a perfect hike-in destination and one of the 15 established marine locations highlighted in ‘Kayaking Around the Key Peninsula,’” Ridley said. “We need a broad base of citizen support for conservation initiatives such as this.”
Pierce County Council Representative Terry Lee, who has supported the park idea and has been in discussions with the park and conservation entities, said the county council will look into the possibility of bonding against the projects on the list when it is received from the advisory board. The conservancy funds amount to about $2.5 million to $3 million a year. For each million, bonding can raise $10 million. Lee said, “The land being considered this year for acquisition is valued at about $24 million. We have to ask, ‘Is it all the best property?’”
The final decision rests with the county council. Lee said, “The council will weigh bond interest rates and current property values, which are as low as they are ever going to be.” He added, “If the council decides to issue bonds against two-thirds of the projects, it will effectively tie up all conservancy funds for the next 20 years. If they only bond against one-third of them, we will have more flexibility to fund other projects in the shorter term.”
This means not all the proposals can be funded with conservancy funds at this time. Lee said, “The Pierce County Council wholeheartedly supports the acquisition of the Devil’s Head property.” If accepted, the parks department would negotiate a purchase and sale agreement with the owners for the property, which has an assessed value of approximately $1 million.
As Key Peninsula enters a period of increasing growth, Ridley emphasized, “it takes public involvement to preserve natural beauty and responsible planning takes time, work and public input,” and she encouraged support for the acquisition and preservation of Devil’s Head to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If (there’s that word again) enough public support is demonstrated, and if the Devil’s Head proposal is one of those recommended, acquisition of the property would be subject to negotiation of a bond sale, a process that takes several months. Public comment and support letters are being accepted by the Conservancy Futures Advisory Board until the end of September.