Nature Conservancy adds to Lily Point park
By Meg Olson
On the last day of 2008, The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit environmental organization, announced the purchase of 146 acres of uplands and 96 acres of tidelands, which will become part of the newly formed Lily Point park in 2009. The purchase adds over 4,000 feet of shoreline to the northeast of the existing park in Point Roberts.
“We’ve bought it and we’re going to sell it to the county,” said conservancy representative Robin Stanton. Both the organization and the county have applied for grants to cover the $2.5 million purchase price, so Stanton said they hope the county will not be expected to come up with the money.
The Nature Conservancy has already secured a $1 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
“Ultimately, we'll sell our property to the county at a discounted price based on the grants – if we receive a grant directly, we discount the purchase price to the county by that much – and we’re working with the county to ensure that the county’s purchase will be entirely funded by grants,” Stanton said.
County parks director Michael McFarlane said they were optimistic about their grant proposal for $1 million from the state’s wildlife and recreation fund.
”We’re ranked pretty good,” he said. “We’ll know by June or July and the transfer of the property could go through at that time.” He added they also had another $1 million grant application in process.
The new acquisition was the second piece acquired from Welsh Development in an effort to protect the Lily Point area. The Whatcom Land Trust cemented the first purchase of 90 acres of uplands and 40 of tidelands with a $1.75 million state grant, and worked with Whatcom County and local fundraisers to tie up the package.
The land was then transferred to the county to become a marine preserve area and part of the county parks system.
“This shoreline, with its massive bluffs that feed sediment into the bay, sustaining the beaches and tide flats, is critical to the health of Puget Sound,” said Jacques White, Washington’s marine program director for The Nature Conservancy.
“It’s a prime example of how places on both sides of the international border fit together into one ecological system,” White said.
White was first invited to visit Lily Point by former taxpayers’ association president and founder of the Point Roberts Conservation Society, Michael Rosser. “We had been talking to the Nature Conservancy for some time but they became seriously interested a couple of years ago when we took Jacques White on a tour,” Rosser said.
Rosser said local groups such as the conservation society and the Friends of Lily Point will play a critical role in the development of the park.
“We need to put together a plan and the community needs to really be involved,” he said. “We need feet on the ground, volunteers to work on trails and raise funds for smaller projects.”
Stanton said the Nature Conservancy and the county were also applying for grants to fund improvements to the park, which will work towards conserving the natural environment and ecological stewardship, while also improving access with features such as parking and improved trails.
“We will continue working with the county to manage the site for recreation and the optimal functioning of the natural processes,” she said.
“We do have a plan to put a restroom building at the end of APA Road with a small parking area but otherwise the site will remain in a natural state,” McFarlane said.
Nature Conservancy Marine Conservation project manager Melisa Holman said a critical improvement will be the removal of the old pilings and remains of the old Alaska Packers Association cannery.
“The natural erosion of feeder bluffs at Lily Point provides huge volumes of sediment from Lily Point and immediately north to beaches along at least 2.7 miles of the western side of Boundary Bay – the process of sediment delivery is critical in maintaining the health of near shore habitats, including eelgrass beds and spawning beaches for forage fish, and the salmonid populations that depend on these habitats for food, shelter and migration pathways,” she said. “However, the existing pilings and slag deposits attenuate the wave energy on the site, causing smaller sediment particles to drop out and diminishing transport of important gravels for spawning and beach nourishment.
“Following protection of both parcels at Lily Point and transfer to the county parks, we feel the removal of pilings and other marine debris to be the final stage in protecting the critical near shore processes, habitats and species at Lily Point.”
Holman added the area also had cultural and historic significance and they would work with the community, local tribes and the state to balance environmental and cultural stewardship.
“Ultimately, planned elements of the park design include an interpretive kiosk and development of interpretive trails along the shoreline and upper bluff highlighting the ecological, cultural and historic significance of the site.
Interpretive signs will explain the significance of the Alaska Packers Association cannery and the ecological need for removal of relict cannery debris.”