|Thursday, Jan 17, 2008|
The general public has been invited to comment on a National Park Service plan that over the next 20 years will change the way San Juan Island National Historical Park manages and interprets its nearly 1,800-acre, two-unit park on San Juan Island.
In the development stage for more than five years, the draft general management plan and environmental impact statement (GMP) identifies new facilities, trails and programs that will underscore the parkâs historical and natural themes, according to park superintendent Peter Dederich.
âOf the three alternatives outlined in the draft GMP, the preferred (Alternative C) provides a strong framework that builds on the inseparable relationships between the parkâs rich cultural heritage and the natural resources,â Dederich said. âAs our visitors already know, this national park unit is composed of several distinct natural environments, some of which, such as the native prairie at American Camp, are nearly extinct in the Pacific Northwest. This plan will help us restore and/or maintain them while developing new trails, facilities and programming that will enhance visitor understanding.â
Alterative A essentially calls for the park to maintain current conditions and operations, assuming that programming, facilities, staffing, and funding would generally continue at their existing levels. Alternative B proposes increasing outreach and programming and expanding visitor services through new facilities and recreational programming.
A 60-day public comment period is scheduled January 18 to March 18 with back-to -back public meetings scheduled in Anacortes and Friday Harbor February 6 and 7 respectively. The plan is available for review and comment at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/sajh. For a copy of the plan and GMP newsletter on CD contact the Superintedent at SAJH_Administration@nps.gov or call (360)378-2240.
âThe public is very important in helping the park staff understand all the ramifications of any actions we might propose,â Dederich said. âWe really need and appreciate the help they can provide through the public participation process.â
San Juan Island National Historical Park was authorized by an act of Congress on September 9, 1966 (Public Law 89-565) to commemorate the peaceful resolution of the Northwest Boundary Dispute (the so-called Pig War) and the 12-year peaceful joint military occupation of San Juan Island from 1860 to 1872. The last general management plan (GMP) was completed in 1979. Many changes have occurred since this time. Patterns and types of visitor use have changed, Dederich said. San Juan County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. More than 250,000 annual park visitors have been recorded at American and English camps.
âThis growth in local population and visitation has implications for management of the parkâs resources,â Dederich said. âAs the population of the island has grown and the island has become more developed, the park has become an important refuge for natural resources such as prairie and Garry oak woodlands. Water has become a precious commodity.â
Each of these changes has major implications for how visitors access and use the park and the facilities needed to support these uses, how resources are managed, and how the National Park Service (NPS) manages its operations, he said. This plan provides the overall context within which more detailed plans may be developed, Dederich said.