In a surprising announcement, the Trust for Public Lands says it has been able to acquire a 440-acre parcel of land for Mount Rainier National Park. The announcement is surprising in its timing, as it mentions a relocation of the road and campground in the park's Carbon River Entrance on the heels of a Park Service announcement concerning access via that entrance.
And in its announcement, the Park Service made no mention of those items. Of course, that might simply be due to timing. When the Park Service drew up its proposal for the Carbon River Entrance, one that prefers doing away with vehicle access in favor of a hiking and biking route, the land acquisition was not finalized.
Some years ago there was talk of moving the park's boundary to the north of the current alignment near the Carbon River Entrance to allow for relocating the road corridor outside of the flood plain. It sounds like this 440-acre acquisition might be the key to that vision.
According to a press release, the 440 acres lies along the Carbon River Road. The Park Service is working to fix the problem by expanding the northwest boundary and moving some facilities and parking. The purchase of this property from Plum Creek constitutes more than half of the acreages in the 2004 Carbon River boundary expansion area for Mount Rainier National Park, according to the release.
"The picture of snow-capped Mount Rainier behind the skyscrapers of Seattle is one of Washington's most recognized views," said Mike Deller, Washington director for the land trust. "Almost 2 million people visit the national park every year, and many of them use the Carbon River Entrance, even though access has been a problem because of flooding. We are happy that the addition of this land will help solve that problem, and thankful to Plum Creek for being part of the long-term collaborative effort that achieved this important outcome."
The $995,000 to finance the project came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with support from U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash., and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
"I'm proud to have helped secure additional land for one of Washington State's most scenic areas," said Sen. Murray."This land will help protect critical wildlife habitats from flooding while allowing more families from across Washington State, and the country, to take advantage of the unmatched beauty found at Mount Rainier National Park."
Sen. Cantwell added that, "I commend the Park Service and the Trust for Public Land for moving this project forward and facilitating vital improvements to one of our state's most beloved national parks. It has been over five years since I worked with the late Representative Jennifer Dunn to pass the bipartisan legislation enabling expansion of Mount Rainier National Park, and it's a testament to all the stakeholders involved and their years of hard work that this critical effort to ensure access to the park's northwest boundary is nearing completion."
Rep. Norm Dicks, long seen as an advocate for the National Park System, said the purchase "is precisely the type of acquisition that the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund was established for: a critical addition to one of our country's greatest national parks that will allow for enhanced recreational access and better habitat protection.
According to the news release, the Park Service plans to build a campground, with roads and parking, along with new hiking trails and fishing spots on the Carbon River. The expansion also is envisioned as a way to help protect the Carbon River valley, which has one of the last inland old-growth rainforests in the United States, and connects wildlife corridors from the park to Puget Sound.
"Over the past five years the Trust for Public Land and our congressional delegation have worked together with us to acquire this critical acreage along the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. This major acquisition will protect habitat and enhance the visitor experience," said Mount Rainier Superintendent Dave Uberuaga.