As for so many park projects, funding for this 603 acre haven is being presented in a way that makes cost-benefit analysis impossible. WE see that the estimated cost of improvements will be $1,200,000 to 1,600,000, but the February 16 memo says, "This is a conceptual plan in which development will be contingent upon funding availability from a variety of sources over an unknown period of time."
Times are tough and the public coffers are far from full, and that will continue for some time. Just last Thursday Jack Louws pleaded with the Planning Commission to move major comprehensive plan revisions along to free-up State funding for essential services. Yet, he signed this. And once again Michael McFarlane (Whatcom County's park czar) continues to play "funding futures" with no specificity whatsoever. The county's money gambits have run afoul like this for years. Departments frame elaborate projects as grant-bait then start passing the tin cup in earnest, with declarations of "well defined public need" firmly in hand. Despite fairly sound criticism from residents, outside special interests and NGO klingons (like the Land Trust, near the head of the line) may finally defeat the common sense of the people.
This county is about two-thirds national forest, and yet it's accumulated 6,500+ acres of park property. WE question why this 603 acre extravagznza should be approved with who-knows-what else in Parks' pipe: trails galore, the Hansen Farm suddenly being snooped-out way out on Mt. Baker Highway, and with (heaven forbid) the "reconveyance" mess still looming. Is the public's money "no object" at all? Apparently it's not, if Parks has its way. What an empire this department's become, with an appetite to expand despite rational cutbacks everywhere else.
And - what about the honest public hearing promised to this community that has fought so hard and long with merely practical and sincere concerns? It's a raw deal. Very raw. Hope lots of folks attend County Council tonight anyway - Tuesday, 7 PM at the county courthouse in Bellingham. Here's the story in the Herald - and what a syrupy, one-sided piece of P.R. it is :
The Bellngham Herald
Ralph Schwartz, Feb, 27, 2012
Long-delayed park near Acme on verge of approval
ACME - A 603-acre park along the south fork of the Nooksack River is likely to be approved by the Whatcom County Council at a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 28, according to a group that wants better access to the area for horseback riding.
The park proposal comes before the council Tuesday at the prompting of the Whatcom chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington.
"We think it's time to proceed and make it come to fruition," President Bill McKenna said.
The plan for the South Fork Regional Park has been in limbo for two years. What would be the largest Whatcom County park was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission in November 2009, but the plan didn't get the support of the council's Natural Resources Committee in January 2010, in part due to concerns raised by an Acme community preservation group.
Despite opposition from the South Fork Heritage Association, McKenna believes the park plan will pass. He said his group has been counting votes among council members.
"We know there's opposition. We don't expect anything to be unanimous, but we expect this time around they'll probably do something in the affirmative," McKenna said.