Shaw Islanders banded together in the late 1920s to buy land at South Beach and set it aside as a park for all to enjoy. The park has been basically unchanged since that time (except for the addition of some campsites) and is designated as conservancy land.
Last month, the San Juan County Hearing Examiner decided that conservancy land-use allows the county to make a two-acre clear-cut, add a new parking lot, required port-a-potties, and even add electric lights to our little historic park here on Shaw Island. What dictionary was the Examiner reading for the definition of conservancy? The same one as the county that allowed this project to go forward?
The county code says any development in conservancy land must "...preserve indigenous plant and animal species and ecosystems in a natural state for the benefit of existing and future generations without precluding compatible human uses.” Is a two-acre clear cut a compatible human use? Obviously, no. A trail, yes. A small boat house, yes. A small play field for picnics? There is already one there. But this? No. This plan to log the park is too destructive and too costly and undemocratic (since a large portion of Shaw Islanders and rest of the people of the county who enjoy the park did not have a say.)
How did this happen? In 2010, the county estimated the cost of implementing the 2008 master plan which included expanding the historic play field that already exists at the park at $700,000 (for 2013 and 2014). That plan was already too big for Shaw Island and the county does not have that kind of money. A private citizen’s group here on Shaw claimed it would cost just $90,000, and is proceeding to raise the money.
But this is a low-ball estimate. The real cost to the county is much higher. The private citizen’s group also chose an even larger size for the ball field and moved the site to the heart of a contiguous band of trees that separates the park from the road and the power lines. This planned clear-cut site is, ironically, adjacent to the “leave-no-trace” campsite of the Cascadia Marine Trail.
The private citizen’s group, with deep pockets and hands on the levers of government, has, in effect, bought the rights to develop the public park. This is wrong. This is hard for me. These are my friends and neighbors here on Shaw who have the best of intentions but have a short-sighted view of what the park and the island truly need.
The parks department now has the permits. Even though the project overlaps the shoreline area, a shoreline development permit was not obtained, and it looks like one will not be obtained. The bulldozers are getting ready to roll as soon as the rains stop and the ground dries out.
For more information, please see the following: goo.gl/mHSsz
Contact the parks director.
Contact the county council.
Let's stop this short-sighted development that does deep and lasting damage to our public park on Shaw Island, and lasting damage to the meaning of conservancy.