Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Adapting Woodstock Farm: Home of Inspiration Point

A few years ago, the City was offered the rare and fortuitous opportunity to acquire -at well below market cost- a scenic tract adjacent to Chuckanut Bay and our southern City Limits. I'm pleased to say we were able to make that purchase with the help of the owners and grants from outside sources.
I thought then as I do now, that Woodstock Farm was a gem that future residents and visitors would enjoy immensely, and particularly for its scenic tranquillity and connection to nature. While our initial challenge was funding the purchase, now maintaining the property and determining how best to use it have become the main focus.

Recently, I was delighted to have been invited to participate in a brainstorming session along with about 50 or so others who represented diverse backgrounds and perspectives. I believe such an approach is a productive one that is likely to result in a plan that will respect the inherent qualities of this unusual site and be careful about how it is developed and used.

The product of this 'charrette' is now in the process of being summarized and depicted in sketches and conceptual drawings, which can then be used to guide further planning. I suspect future plans may be folded into some sort of a 'Master Plan' that may be adopted and developed in phases, each with an associated cost and incremental designed use.
But, the initial phase is what can reasonably be done now that also respects existing access and usage limitations on what is appropriate and affordable.

My former City Council colleague, Dr Grant Deger, who also attended the brainstorming session, made a comment that seemed to resonate with everyone present. When asked what had convinced him that Woodstock Farm ought to be acquired, he said simply, 'the tranquillity'.

What an unusually succinct and accurate statement! Just think about what practical limits that might entail. When is tranquillity impaired? To me it means 'less is more' when trying to decide what level of development is desired. Peaceful uses are to be preferred. Maybe not too many motorized vehicles. Quiet Interpretive trails that carefully preserve sensitive plant and biota habitat. Places like Inspiration Point, where one can actually become inspired! Day use only. Quiet meeting places for Council retreats, small corporate or non-profits meetings, studies of history & local culture and lore.
That's the kind of place this has been, is now, and probably ought to remain.
Even trail connections, as important as they are, need to be done very carefully to preserve what is becoming the rarest of things -tranquillity!

I hope something close to these concepts is the course of action that finally gets adopted for Woodstock Farm, because that is what will stand the best chance of preserving its essential nature.
But only time will tell.

For those who are up to a few more words on this subject, the following references to the Proposed Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan dated May 12, 2008, also apply:

From Chapter 6 -Recommendations:
Paragraph 6.4 - Special Use Sites, under Specific Recommendations:

• Develop master plan for Woodstock Farm to include parking and access plan, maintenance plan, hand-carry boat landing site [no launching] and other improvements as feasible.

• Provide additional environmental education opportunities including a bird guide, native plant guide, interpretive signage, natural history, and/or other educational and stewardship related activities or programs to promote the value of the natural environment throughout the park system, distributed primarily in select open space areas or in conjunction with specific unique habitat features.

Other general language about proper use of sensitive areas can be seen under Paragraph 6.5 - Open Space and Paragraph 6.6 - Trails that also serve as guidelines for Woodstock Farm.

Appendix A 'Park Classifications' further amplifies these guidelines;

Under 'Special Use Sites':

General Description: .....Unique Sites - generally a single use, but smaller than a regional park and not necessarily of a significance that might draw from a larger regional base.

Acquisition Guidelines: As specialized, single use facilities, special use parks should be selected based on the function that they are intended to serve. They should be situated such that sufficient infrastructure could be developed or already exists to support the intended use, including major arterials, buses and other mass transit capabilities as necessary. They should also have access to multi-modal connections.

Development Guidelines: Special use parks should be developed to maximize their intended uses. They generally do NOT include the same activities as those found in other park types. Activities provided will depend solely on the type of intended uses for the park and the influence of the community or region as expressed through a public process......

In a real sense, we are lucky that Woodstock Farm pretty clearly qualifies as a special use park, because it may inherently require a lower level of funding to develop and operate than a more heavily and actively used Community, Regional or Neighborhood Park might.
We are doubly fortunate that what Woodstock Farm offers is -in a word- tranquillity!