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Why I would “Vote No,” on the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance

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Image of Clark’s Point, from WLT website at www.whatcomlandtrust.org

Dear Council and Executive Louws;

Another day.  Another letter.  I’ve followed the Reconveyance discussion for the past 2 years and this is why I would “Vote No” for the Reconveyance:

  • Whatcom County currently holds approx. 7400 acres in park land (4 x’s more than any other county in Washington State).
  • Whatcom County has developed for public utilization approx. 1900 acres of the 7400 acres (that’s a lot of under-utilized property).
  • If the trust land is conveyed back to Whatcom County, the County will be responsible for 16,200 acres  in park land (8x’s more than any other county in Washington State).
  • The Department of Ecology is on record that, “the Reconveyance of this land will not improve Lake Whatcom water quality.”
  • The financial presentation by Whatcom County Parks has moved the target from a 5 to 10 year cost projection and development; to a 15 to 30 year cost projection and development.
  • Presently the land is available for low impact recreational activity.
  • Presently the DNR manages a selective logging practice to benefit the trust holders (that’s all of us).
  • Presently the State has the obligation to pay for any landslides that occur on this land from natural causes.
  • Presently the State holds all liability for injury, or personal damages that may happen on the trust land.
  • Presently the DNR has a working relationship with the logging industry and trust beneficiaries to build, maintain and repair all trails and roads for the benefit of the trust land (which also benefits the people).
  • Presently the DNR is able to sign and hold leases with private industry (i.e.; cell towers and similar entities) for the benefit of the trusts (which also benefits the people).
  • According to the DNR’s presentation to the Council, they are “eager” to work with Whatcom County and the Legislature to implement a “Park Plan.”
  • The DNR’s park plan would likely take less time than the County’s park plan; thus generating revenue for the County, earlier and for the benefit of everyone.
  • The DNR has a proven track record that they can and will (if a County works with them) develop a working park plan that includes recreation and appropriate private activity usage.
  • The DNR is on record that they will develop a plan that includes; bicycling, hiking, walking, ORV, horse-riding, fishing, hunting, logging, camping, pet-walking and other low impact activity that is compatible to the area(s) designated for these specific activities.
  • Isn’t the Council currently dealing with an issue of ORV activity on private land due to the “lack” of permitted areas for this activity?  Win-win!
  • The County has not denied or assured the public (verbally or in writing) that they will not give Whatcom Land Trust a “Conservation Easement,” to manage this land for the County.
  • There must be a lot at stake as I found this on The Whatcom Land Trust website  WLT then set to work raising the money and successfully found one anonymous donor to provide half: $250,000.  In the event that the County Council makes a final decision to reconvey the lands, WLT will match that donation and deliver $500,000 to the Mt. Baker School District.  That’s where you come in!   All of the $250,000 WLT has committed will come from private donors–from people like you.”
  • Whatcom Land Trust already has a disproportionate amount of influence over the Council due to the growing size and scope of private land that has been converted to trust land.
  • The shrinking amount of taxable, private land has already heavily impacted the level of taxation on private property; this action would further harm the ability of average citizens to pay property taxes.
  • The County has not provided the public with an EIS study, that would document the intent, costs and ability of this land to be developed for “competitive bicycling or any lesser bicycling activity.”
  • The County has not provided to the public (verbally or in writing) a statement that logging, hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, running, or pet-walking will be allowed on this land if conveyed back to the County.
  • “If” the conveyed land was permitted by the County for competitive biking, or recreational biking; there would be a direct impact of an additional 200,000 one-way car trips per year, to realize the projected $500M that Mr. Browne claims.
  • To realize this amount of usage would require a national advertising campaign.
  • Most of this traffic would be concentrated during the Spring/Summer season; thus causing an even higher traffic density during prime season.
  • The current state of North Shore Drive or Lake Whatcom Blvd, would need immediate improvements to ameliorate the residents of these roads (who would likely not want this type of increased traffic volume in their highly prized and valued areas).
  • The additional traffic would potentially cause an increase in pollutants to Lake Whatcom, which the Council stated they want to improve, not damage.

The trust land should, by all reasoned thought, remain as trust land, managed by the DNR for the benefit of the trusts.  In the long-vision, this will benefit everyone in Whatcom County, as a permitted park plan, developed by the DNR, Whatcom County and approved by our Legislature.  If DNR, Whatcom County Council and the tax paying Citizens of Whatcom County are all on board with this plan, the Legislature will approve it!  That’s a win-win for everyone and we might even see it to fruition in my life-time.  The other option will likely not be realized to full fruition or in my lifetime.

Respectfully,

Kris Halterman
Whatcom County

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