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Olympic National Parks wants your input, says Maynes

Forks Forum

Forks, WA - The Draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement was presented for public viewing and comment in Forks on Aug. 14 at the DNR facility and on Aug. 17 in Sekiu at the Sekiu Community Center. 

The over-arching document, according to Barb Maynes, Olympic National Parks public information officer, will be a guide for management of the park for the next fifteen to twenty years. 

The draft plan is based on two original rounds of park management meetings with local chambers of commerce and tribal councils.  The first round in late 2001 asked what issues concerned Olympic Peninsula communities.  The second round took place in the middle of 2002.

Although the turnout for the two Forks sessions was small – just 22 people - those who did stop by took the time to review the ONP materials and talk to park representatives about their questions and concerns. The DNR meeting room was filled with maps of each Olympic area park, showing the areas in question and presenting outcomes for all four of the ONP alternatives for each park. Feedback forms were available for visitors to complete and tape recorders were on hand, for those who wanted to offer oral comments.

In the Sekiu presentation, the public was asked:  "If you could design the park, what would it look like?"  Maynes emphasized  this was a draft plan, and "as much public input as possible" was critical at this stage.

"The key word is 'draft,'" Maynes repeated.  "We are offering four different alternative ways of managing the parks, four different visions, in this draft.  We are here to fit the plan to the community."

The four alternative ways are Plan A:  the no-action alternative, in which the method of management remains unchanged; Plan B:  the resource protection emphasis, in which, for example, a washed-out road becomes a trail; Plan C: the  visitor opportunities emphasis, in which graded roads are added to parks that are opened for year-round access, and Plan D:  the preferred emphasis, in which parts of the other three plans are combined to form a compromise.

"We aren't necessarily trying to make everybody happy," said Maynes.  "We're trying to provide for as many of the alternative preferences as possible.  Compromise leaves everyone a little unsatisfied, but with something they want."
"We'll be basing the final plan on our own analysis and community input," said Maynes.

The areas that will be effected will be Heart of the Hills, Hurricane Ridge, Deer Park, Dosewallips, Staircase, Hoh, Mora, and Kalaloch.  Areas of interest in the West End are Lake Crescent, Elwha, Sol Duc, Queets, Quinault, and the Olympic wilderness.

Maynes emphasized that the Olympic Parks general management plan has nothing to do with any other land proposals.  The GMP is a park boundary expansion plan that will buy land only from willing sellers.

"The ultimate goal in this area is greater levels of protection for the threatened Ozette sockeye," said Maynes.  "In no way are we activating eminent domain.  Absolutely not."  Eminent domain is the taking of private lands for public use, usually with compensation to the original owners.

The underlying concept for the park’s expansion is complicated.  "It's not just a land swap," said Maynes.  "To quote the Department of Natural Resources, we are 'thinking outside the box.'"

The Olympic Parks would acquire land in sales from willing private timber companies only as lands became available for sale, and then exchange 44,000 acres of acquired forest with the Department of Natural Resources in return for the mineral rights under park lands.

"Basically, we're getting mineral rights on park lands into the hands of the park’s, so that no one can come in and start placer mining," said Maynes, referring to a method of extracting minerals from glacier-deposited pockets by dredging, washing, or other hydraulic methods.

The present draft plan deals with general concerns. The more public input the park’s receive, the more detailed the final study will be.

Planning teams, led by Supervisor of Parks Bill Laitner, will be reading and considering all comments.  "Don't send us a form letter or petition," said Maynes.  "We want to see what you really want the parks to look like in fifteen years.  We want to know what you really disagree with, and why.  Be specific." 

Each comment will be addressed in the final document with an action and response.  "For example, it was noted the glossary needs to be improved," said Maynes. "We've added twelve more glossary entries." 

Comments may not be acted on if it is believed less impact can be accomplished by something else.  "Just because we didn't act on your comment doesn't mean we didn't consider it; the entire staff will be reading them all," said Maynes.
The final GMP will be out "in about a year," said Maynes. 

Area residents are strongly encouraged to submit their comments to the plans available at www.NPS.gov/olym (follow links for the General Management Plan).  Call Park Headquarters at 360-565-3004, or email olym_gmp@nps.gov for a free copy of the draft plan in printed or CD form.  The deadline for comments is Sept. 30.

Some portions of this story were provided by Denise Dunne DeVaney, Forum editor



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