Clallam County will support a state effort to acquire a 21-acre parcel to expand the proposed Miller Peninsula State Park, commissioners said.
Commissioners on April 13 said they would sign a letter of support for a state Parks and Recreation Commission grant application to purchase the forested Jones Trust parcel near the northwest corner of the 2,800-acre park property in east Clallam County.
“Providing a grant to acquire the property would enhance the existing park property by expanding recreational opportunities as well as potentially providing much needed public beach access,” the letter states.
Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the letter to the state Recreation and Conversation Office on April 21.
“I think it’s a great idea if we can get the access,” Commissioner Bill Peach said in an April 13 work session.
State Parks officials have resurrected a plan to develop a more than 2,800-acre state park on the rural Miller Peninsula.
The 21-acre Jones Trust property has about a quarter-mile of shoreline and a ravine, parks planner Jessica Logan said.
“It is one of the few places along the north side of Miller Peninsula where it might be possible to build beach access, since much of the existing state park property is very high bank,” Logan said in a letter to county commissioners.
“Currently, there is not road access to the Jones Trust property.”
Commissioner Randy Johnson said he would be “happy” to support the letter, particularly if the property provided beach access.
Vernice Quigley of Diamond Point said she was concerned about road access for emergency services, including fire suppression vehicles.
“We have one road in and out,” said Quigley, who participated in the meeting by video conference.
“It’s a serious situation out here, even now without the people camping.”
Commissioner Mark Ozias, whose Sequim-area District 1 covers the east county, said he would follow up with state officials on planned road access.
“The fire issues and the fire-service issues are an ongoing concern out at Diamond Point for a number of reasons, so I thank you very much for you participation and your interest today,” Ozias told Quigley.
“We’ll have a bit of time between now and next week to see if I can ascertain a little bit more information on the questions that your asking, but it may be a little bit premature to have answers for those questions.”
Park users hope for input
Even prior to the widespread shutdown of parks across the state and region, the future of Miller Peninsula Park was fairly uncertain.
A couple of that property’s longest-standing advocates hope that they and other regular users of the property have a say in that future.
Washington State Parks officials have for years had plans to develop parts of state-owned land on the peninsula with more amenities, but a drive in the mid-2000s to create a master plan and move ahead on that development was essentially derailed by an economic downturn in 2008.
Those efforts were revitalized in the early 2010s and as recent as late 2019/early 2020 state officials were moving forward with creating a vision for Miller Peninsula Park as a “destination park.”
Powell Jones, director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, has longtime ties to the particular piece of land, having logged more than 10,000 miles on mountain bikes over the years (he stopped tracking after hitting the milestone).
“I’m a little worried,” Jones said in late March.
“I feel very much connected to that land.”
Jones has a three-part wish list: He said he wants to see state officials get plenty of local involvement in developing the site, to make sure they contact nearby land owners (the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Department of Natural Resources are the two largest), and to not segregate trails.
Walkers/hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians have all used the trail system there for years, Jones said.
“We can all get along,” he said. “We can work together and it has worked.”
Jones volunteers to maintain the trails with the local chapter of Backcountry Horsemen; in fact, he’s a member for that purpose.
“I say I’m a mountain biker who works for the Backcountry Horsemen,” Jones said.
“They have a lot of love for that (property) and it’s been an awesome partnership.”
If he had his druthers, Jones would simply like to see a plan that “respects what’s already been developed.”
The state land on Miller Peninsula, Jones said, is unique. The system of trails speckled with manzanita and madronas offers a stunning variety for users, can be exceptionally wet or dry on the same day, offers solitude even when many are using the land, and it has water access.
“It’s right outside of town; you can ride 15 miles and see no one and yet the parking lot is full,” Jones said.
It’s one of the rare parcels of land usable 365 days a year, he said.
“There’s not a day in the year I can’t get out there,” Jones said. “It’s a huge local asset.”
Tom Mix, a longtime member of the Backcountry Horsemen-Peninsula Chapter, also praised the property’s 365-days-a-year usability.
“It has a variety of trails (you can use for) how to train your horse to be good on a trial,” Mix said.
“And it’s big area. What’s nice about it is, it allows people to use 27 miles of trails without seeing anybody,” he said. (And) people respect it; we don’t have much trash dumped out there.”
While not repairing trails and pulling noxious weeds from the property, Jones and Mix and other volunteers have installed about 60 trail intersection signs over the years.
But recent efforts to create a new vision for the park hasn’t yet resulted in contact with local users, Jones said.
“Not one of us has been called,” he said. That’s a problem and a missed opportunity, Jones said, because the local groups have so many connections with other stakeholders.
Longtime users have a keen sense of what problems may lay ahead in creating a master plan, Mix noted. For instance, he said, consider the trail named “Belly Deep.”
“That’s not an accidental name,” Mix noted. “Local trails have names that what’s going on there.”
Mix said he’s not opposed to development such as campsites, considering the interest.
“Look at Sequim Bay (State Park), Dosewallips, parks over in Jefferson County,” Mix said. “Our customers are talking to us. People need a place to stay. I kind of support that.”
There is gently-sloping land on the east side of Diamond Point Road that would be suitable, he said.
Mix said he’d much rather have the property developed as a low impact state park than the state selling the land to an uncertain future.
“I’m not going to oppose development,” Mix said, “but (we) want to be a part of the planning.”
Mix said he’s confident park officials will engage the area residents and park property users.
“I’m assured person leading the plan is not a planner; planners will not engage the public until it (the project) is done,” he said.