Saving Open Space for the Community through WWRP

Written by Danica Johnson, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition
Photographed by Benjamin Drummond and Whidbey Camano Land Trust

Residents of Camano Island want to take advantage of their home’s beautiful coastline by creating more public space for the community.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust, partnering with Island County, wants to help with that. They have applied for a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) grant to buy 13 acres of rare, low-bank waterfront on Barnum Point, 1/3 mile of private beach, and 17 acres of private tidelands - part of a larger effort to expand the Barnum Point County Park and create more public land for residents of the island.

The expansion of Barnum Point County Park will give the public much-needed access to beach waterfront and public trails, while preserving critical habitat for marine life including endangered Chinook salmon.

“The habitat significance of Barnum Point for wildlife and marine life extends well beyond the proposed park boundary. From a protection and conservation perspective, Barnum Point’s critical feeder bluff and vital fish and wildlife habitat make this rare and wild place an ecological gem. It is not unusual to see dozens of bald eagles feeding in the tidelands, and others perching on the tall trees or soaring in the skies,” says Ryan Elting, Conservation Director at the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

(This effort builds on earlier conservation at Barnum Point, when The Nature Conservancy and Island County teamed up to secure federal and state grants and private donations to conserve 52 acres, creating the park.)

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program is our state’s primary tool for protecting Washington’s natural spaces and creating outdoor recreational opportunities. Funded through the state capital construction budget, the WWRP and has successfully leveraged over $1.3 billion for more than 1,200 projects, creating not only parks and wildlife habitat, but also jobs, revenue, and increased quality of life throughout the state.

In 2016, the program was updated to address the concerns of lawmakers and better meet our state’s needs – such as allowing land trusts to apply for projects in more habitat conservation categories and recognizing the need for continued maintenance on public lands. 

For the past 25 years, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition has worked to ensure robust funding for this grant program by unifying disparate voices through education and advocacy. The Coalition is a nonprofit citizens group of over 280 diverse organizations including the Nature Conservancy in Washington. For the 2017-2019 biennium, the Coalition is asking the Governor and the legislature for $120 million in funding for the WWRP.

This money goes directly to funding projects like the Barnum Point County Park expansion, which create valuable recreational opportunities and outdoor access for Washingtonians.

“WWRP Water Access and Local Parks funding represents the funding that could push this project over the finish line and complete this amazing vision – more than ten years in the making – to create one of the premier County Parks in our region,” says Elting.

If you agree that funding for the WWRP is vitally important for our communities, take a moment to sign your name to this letter supporting the $120 million funding request. And if you are qualified to speak for the organization or company that you work for, sign them on as well! The more support that we can demonstrate, the more likely it is that the WWRP will receive adequate funds for protecting and creating public spaces like Barnum Point County Park.

Let’s join together to give our communities more chances to grow, play, and learn in the great outdoors.

Sign the letter in support of WWRP today