Their comments varied from how much development they’d want to see — including no development at all — but the group of citizens were mostly united in their message to state parks officials: Keep Miller Peninsula State Park as close to its natural state as possible.
A dozen-plus commenters on Jan. 27 in Port Townsend added their thought to a chorus of concerns to board members with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission about plans to change the park on the Miller Peninsula just east of Blyn into a “destination park.”
The 2,800-acre site already includes a trail system built and maintained by local hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians through second-growth forest. It also includes 3 miles of saltwater shoreline on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Discovery Bay.
Long-range planning for the mostly undeveloped park include land classifications, a long-term boundary, a master plan and an official name.
Development of the park has been in the works since at least the mid-2000s, and in 2007, parks officials approved a vision for park “nature within reach.” That vision considered a central village lodging and amenities and park features highlighting opportunities for hiking, mountain bike and horseback riding, wildlife viewing, interpretive displays — and the concept of a “destination park,” one featuring day and night use (lodging and camping).
Nicki Fields, planning lead for the State Parks system, said at the Jan. 27 meeting park plans have pinpointed “the idea of bringing people in contact with nature.”
Funding for such development was stymied by lack of funding since the mid-2000s.
However, state parks officials in the past two years have made it a priority to consider development of Miller Peninsula State Park. The state parks’ 10-year Capital Budget approved in July 2020 earmarked $25 million to develop the land.
At the Jan. 27 meeting, peninsula residents — many of them who live in nearby neighborhoods — asked park officials to consider keeping park development minimal or the park left as is entirely.
“I believe public policy should consider people it affects the most we are those people,” said Carrie Sunstrom, a retired landscape architect and Diamond Point resident. She said she uses the park’s trials for hiking and horseback riding.
Miller Peninsula State Park is “well-used,” “well-loved” and “exists in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood,” Sunstrom said.
“Why do you want to blow that all up?
“We are are different people than you engaged with — (the) 2005 planning is obsolete,” Sunstrom said. “We would like to request you start over and engage with us.”
David Garlington, a Diamond Point resident and the City of Sequim’s former Public Works Director, said Sequim Bay State Park fits the model of what park officials are looking to create, and that the money would be better spent on improvements there.
“Don’t spend millions of dollars on Miller Peninsula for something that already exists,” he said.
Local environmentalist Darlene Schanfald said all the Miller Peninsula Park needs are some signs, bathrooms and a couple of picnic table.
“Leave it at that,” she said. “Please respect the people that are closest to it. We want to keep it natural.”
David LeRoux said adding campsites and RV spots at this park site would be competing with nearby businesses.
“Why should the state parks be spending my money, your money, taxpayer money, to build things that will compete with private businesses?” he asked. “A lot of people use the state park just the way it is. This plan just wants to turn this park into a money pit.”
3 options offered
Fields presented three concepts for possible development of the park at Miller Peninsula: Immersed in Nature, Village Center and Traditional.
The Immersed in Nature concept, she detailed, spreads out a number of nature-focused amenities, with numerous activities possibilities in four areas in the Northwest portion of the park; an outdoor classroom, botanical garden, canopy walk, zip line, pump track, amphitheatre, disc golf course, open play meadow and more are listed as possible activities.
Immersed in Nature would feature two main camping loops in the park’s center and primarily undeveloped areas on the park’s west side.
“By spreading out the facilities, you have more of an environmental impact,” Fields noted about this first option.
The Village Center option sees most development in the parks center around a lodge, with two camping loops, an education center, amphitheater, climbing walls and multi-use open lawn area nearby.
“While you’re in, it feels developed (but) as soon as you leave it most of the park feels undeveloped,” Fields said.
This option is more in line with what parks officials had described in their 2007 vision, she said.
The third option, Traditional, offers three relatively large camping loops with about 70, 45 and 40 campsites, a 20-person group camping loop and a day-use area in the Northwest portion of the park, with activities or features including a botanical garden, amphitheater, amphibian pond, artist space and more.
It’s a relatively smaller vision for the overall park, Fields said.
“We’ll be looking at how many camping spaces we’d be aiming to provide (at Miller Peninsula); local campgrounds are at capacity,” she said.
Liam Antrim and Sue Gilman urged the parks board to not consider building of a lodging structure at Miller Peninsula.
Antrim, a Sequim resident since the mid-1980s, said, “I would put the lodge development … in the arena of something fanciful and inappropriate for this area.”
Gilman said Sequim already has plenty of lodging. She urged parks directors to reconsider all the money marked for Miller Peninsula State Park and instead spread it around to boost other state parks.
Dudley Doss said Miller Peninsula’s park is part of a layered corridor that includes federal, state and tribal lands, the Salish Sea and more.
“It’s a really special and rare area,” Doss said. “The Village Center option would really change all of this. It would degrade this whole corridor in a time when the people in this state are working to preserve and repair habitat.
“The Village Center option is going in opposite direction,” he said. “I think this is going to be a headache for state parks.”
Doss urged State Parks officials to “do what state parks do best: create opportunities to camp and explore park lands.”
Their comments echoed numerous concerns about the park’s viability for development that state officials collected in June 2021.
Park officials also have concerns about any development at the site. Water access and availability is minimal, Fields noted, and the addition of more traffic to the area, particularly at the U.S. Highway 101 turnoff, is a significant concern — a sentiment echoed by neighbors Linda Fitzgerald and Deborah Quinnell later in the meeting.
“Improvements will be needed at that intersection if the park is developed,” Fields said.
Development of the would likely have significant impact on wildlife, so a special wildlife corridor is also being considered, Fields noted, to help animals bypass highway traffic.
The next step Fields said, is to develop a preliminary recommendation for state parks officials, followed by a public workshop and then a full staff recommendation, followed by en environmental review.
Once those are in place, Fields said, the state parks commission would make a decision on the park’s master plan, naming, land classification and its long-term boundary, followed by some pre-design work.
Finally, state parks officials would make a request for funding in the 2025-2027 Capital Budget.
Read more about plans to change Miller Peninsula State Park at parks.state.wa.us/1187/Miller-Peninsula-Planning.
Changes considered at Sequim Bay park
The meeting agenda also includes possible changes to Sequim Bay State Park, a year-round, 92-acre marine camping park with 4,909 feet of saltwater coast. State park officials have stated in previous interviews they plan to provide complementary experiences between the two Sequim-area parks.
With some landslide/erosion issues at the Sequim Bay park, park officials are considering closing some camping sites for safety.
Other additions and changes at the site detailed by park officials include:
• expansion/modernization of the lodge
• repurpose some recreational (RV) sites for concessions, hiker/biker camping, Olympic Discovery Trail trailhead
• install 4-6 cabins at the upper loop as well as three RV sites
• close the lower loop, repurpose as car parking, picnic and play area
• remove pier from current site, possibly relocating it at park’s northern end
• rehabilitation of the entrance road
• ADA improvements at the tunnel that runs underneath U.S. Highway 101
• addition of a dog park on the west side of the highway
Fields said park officials have also considered Sequim Bay State Park as a day use-only site.