Comment by April 4 on Mt. Grant Preserve management plan

Hiking, hunting, swimming, limited group camping, horse-back riding are some of the potential activities in the draft Management Plan for Mount Grant Preserve on San Juan Island. According to San Juan County Land Bank, management will focus on protecting the land’s natural attributes, while enabling compatible low impact public use.



Low-intensity recreational access for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians was a primary goal of acquisition in addition to providing driving access to the summit where accessible trails and facilities provide people of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy the Preserve’s natural beauty and stunning vistas. 

Commercial use - including commercial tours, events, photography, and videography/cinematography - is not permitted without joint permission of the Land Bank and Preservation Trust.

Comments are being taken on the draft plan until Wednesday, April 4. In addition to reading the plan online, community members can stop by the Land Bank's office at 328 Caines Street in Friday Harbor to view it. If you'd like to have a copy emailed to you contact Tanja Williamson at 360-378-4402 or email tanjaw@sjclandbank.org. Written comments are preferred. Comments can be made by phone, email, personal letter, in person, or during the public meeting. Public comments will be accepted Wednesday, March 7, through Wednesday, April 4, 2018.

A public meeting about the Mount Grant Preserve DRAFT Management Plan will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 26  at Brickworks in Friday Harbor.

After the comment period closes, the Land Bank staff and commission will review comments and make edits to the draft plan. Barring unforeseen circumstance, the plan will be reviewed by the Land Bank Commission at their monthly meeting on Friday, April 20.   Once adopted the management plan will be reviewed, and if appropriate revised, every ten years. 

The main portion of the Mount Grant Preserve was acquired from members of the Lawson family, who owned it for several generations. Alfred Lawson (1868-1941) pieced together the Lawson family holdings in this area during the period 1891-1913. The land was primarily used for grazing and occasional timber harvest.

In the 1990s the Lawson family began the “Lawson Ridge” residential development project in earnest, creating twelve lots, constructing roads, and installing community water system and utilities. The properties were actively marketed for several years before the Land Bank and San Juan Preservation Trust formed a partnership to acquire the land.

The Land Bank owns and manages the preserve. SJPT holds a conservation easement over the bulk of the preserve that ensures  it remains protected and accessible to the public in perpetuity. 

Mount Grant Preserve derives its name from the 1875 General Land Office (GLO) cadastral survey of San Juan County. The name appears on the survey maps as well as in the surveyor’s notes. The survey crew likely named it in honor of Civil War figure Ulysses S. Grant. “Mount Grant” is referenced again in Roy McClelland’s 1927 “Geology of the San Juan Islands,” and occasionally appears on maps through the 1970s.

A volunteer preserve host position, modeled after similar position at state and National Parks,  is proposed to assist with management of gate access, maintenance, monitoring public use, outreach, and education. The building site at Lot 2 would be further developed to host an RV or tiny home. 

A camp area is under consideration for use by groups such as: 

• Washington Conservation Corps

• Student Conservation Association

• Northwest Youth Corps

• San Juan Islands Conservation Corps

• Coast Salish Conservation Corps

• American Hiking Society’s Volunteer Vacations

• Doris Duke

• Conservation Scholars Program

Underground utilities will be left in place. The above ground portions of the water system at the summit including the electrical system, cistern, pumps, and pressure tank will be removed. Well #3 and, if necessary, well #4 will be maintained and enhanced to provide potable water to the preserve host site and conservation corps/volunteer camp if developed. Utilities, including electric, phone, septic and water, will be maintained or installed for the Preserve host site. Water and utilities may be developed in the future for volunteer/group campsite.

To aid in the protection of habitats and species, two special management zones have been established. Thirty acres has been designated as a no public access zone. This area includes representative portions of each habitat type found on Mount Grant. While no public access is to be permitted in this zone, Land Bank staff, volunteers, and contractors may access this area to perform stewardship activities including habitat restoration and monitoring.

An additional 30 acres on the east facing slopes has been identified for limited public access development. This zone was identified as important and sensitive grassland-rocky bald habitat in the ecological assessment. A pedestrian trail has been aligned to carefully travel through this zone following a forested bench with relatively deeper soils.

Hunting has persisted as an activity on these lands up to the Land Bank’s ownership. While the eastern and summit portions of the preserve are likely to have recreational activities that may be incompatible with hunting, the remote nature of the western portion of the preserve might provide opportunity to continue the recreational and cultural tradition of hunting while simultaneously providing ecological benefits - keeping the deer population in check. 

Given the ease of access afforded by the driving access, it is anticipated the Mount Grant Preserve will have use levels comparatively higher than most other Land Bank Preserves. Trails will be developed to serve hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and people with disabilities. Formal trail development will be focused along the eastern flank of Mount Grant. Non-motorized access along an old roadbed on the west side which has been enjoyed by neighbors for generations will be continued.

The trail concept includes four trail types: multi-use, hiking only, mountain biking only, and accessible trails.

The hiking only route climbs steeply along a natural bench providing quick access to vistas as well as opportunities to enjoy a variety of habitats and diverse spring wildflower displays. This trail is located in a special management 28 zone which emphasizes protection of natural resources, restricting use to pedestrians only.

A mountain bike specific trail is proposed along the southern portion of the property. The concept for this trail is to provide a descent-only route which is targeted towards intermediate-advanced cross-country mountain bikers. Class I electric bicycles are permitted on trails open for use by bicycles. Class II and III electric bicycles are restricted to paved roadways, but can be used on paved roadways when other motorized access is not permitted.

The summit area has already benefited from initial trail improvements designed to improve accessibility, but will be expanded to approximately a quarter mile of trail meeting U.S. Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG).

A trail designed to be shared by hikers, bikers, and equestrians climbs a longer and less steep route.

While equestrian use is a goal, there is uncertainty about the ability to develop trailhead parking suitable for trucks and trailers. Currently most equestrian use of the preserve is by people who live and/or board horses nearby. Trail designs will take into consideration continuance of these access points and the Land Bank will look for opportunities for trailhead facilities suitable for equestrians.

A small pond located at the northwest corner of the preserve has been enjoyed as a swimming hole since its creation in the 1960s. Swimming will be permitted at users own risk. Access for swimming may be closed at the discretion of Land Bank staff for protection of natural resources or health and safety issues.

Three designated parking areas are envisioned. Each of the formal parking areas will have one ADA accessible parking space sited to provide easy access to trailhead and interpretive signage and restroom facilities.

The base parking area will be open to daytime public access on a daily basis and will provide parking for up to 12 vehicles.

The mid-mountain parking area is intended to be used when driving access to the summit is open, but may also be opened for daily use if use levels are high enough to cause regular overflow of base parking area. Mid-mountain parking will provide parking for up to 12 vehicles.

The summit will provide parking for up to 15 vehicles. The accessible parking space at the summit will also be sited to provide landscape and wildlife viewing opportunities directly from vehicle to benefit people with severe physical limitations.

Informal parking will be allowed for up to two oversize vehicles such as shuttle vans and multi-function school activity buses up to 30 feet in length at the end of High Pass Lane for special events on days when driving access is open to the summit. 

Providing driving access to the summit was one of the primary public access goals for the acquisition of Mount Grant. The following policies will be used to manage driving access:

• Driving access will be open up to four days per week, typically with greater number of days available during spring and summer months and fewer days during fall and winter

• Driving access may be open additional days to provide access during holidays or events

• Driving access will be permitted during daylight hours with specific open hours posted seasonally at the gate. Limited driving access may be permitted for special events during days or times that the road is otherwise not generally open, including evenings

• Driving access is contingent on road and weather conditions and is subject to closure at the discretion of the Land Bank staff members or appointees. This may include preemptive closure based on interpretation of weather forecasts

• Vehicles longer than 24 feet, over 7 feet in height, or towing trailers are prohibited. Shuttle vans or multi-function school activity buses may be granted permission in advance if associated with special events • Special permission for driving access may be granted to individuals or groups at the discretion of the Land Bank or Preservation Trust

• Other rules governing driving access will be adopted as the Land Bank gains more experience in managing this activity

A. Objectives for Public Access 

1. Maintain the capacity for safe, low-intensity access that does not detract from its outstanding aesthetic and natural characteristics, including opportunities for driving access to the summit, hiking mountain biking, equestrian, and accessible trails.

2. Create opportunities for accessible infrastructure including trails, viewpoints, restrooms, parking, and other facilities.

3. Maintain an appropriate level of use, protecting conservation resources and neighborhood character, and ensuring that each visitor has opportunity for a quality experience.

4. Maintain Preserve infrastructure, including roads, parking, trails, signage, restroom, benches, picnic tables, and shelter, in safe, attractive, and functional manner.

5. Explore alternatives for pedestrian access and connectivity with other Land Bank Preserves and other private and public lands.

6. Provide opportunity for foraging native plants and fungi for personal consumption.

7. Explore opportunity for ecologically managed deer hunting on western part of preserve.

B. Stewardship Tasks for Public Access

1. Controlling level of use

Maintaining an appropriate level of use will be essential to preserving special qualities of the Preserve. Because use levels are expected to be higher than other Land Bank Preserves. The following approaches will be used to moderate impacts associated with level of use

• Thoughtful design and construction of parking areas to convey appropriate expectations for the Preserve experience

• Limited facilities and level of development to discourage unwanted activities.

• Limiting driving access to summit to certain days of week (see “Driving Access” section below)

• Enforcement of special event policy

• Use of barriers (natural vegetation, split rail fencing, etc.) and signage to reduce trampling and focus recreational access

• Application of best management practices for trail design, construction, and maintenance to reduce current and future impacts associated with public access

• Discourage overexposure and promotion of the Preserve as a primary tourist destination

Appendix D. Rules and Use Restrictions

The following use restrictions will be in effect for the Mount Grant Preserve. Restrictions are intended to protect the ecology of the Preserve, the safety and peace of neighbors, and to minimize management costs. They will be posted on site and mentioned in literature as appropriate.

The Land Bank generally relies on signage and periodic contact from staff or volunteers to educate visitors about use restrictions. An enforcement ordinance governing activities on Land Bank Preserves was adopted by the San Juan County Council on August 25, 2009. When necessary, enforcement actions may be carried out through the San Juan County Sheriff’s office.

• No camping

• No fires

• Hunting permitted in designated areas only and according to advertised restrictions • No discharge of firearms except as may be permitted for hunting activities

• Launching or landing of UAV (drones and similar devices) is allowed for research purposes solely with written permission of Land Bank Director • Daytime use only

• Dogs must be leashed

• Pedestrian access only beyond road

• Motorized vehicles permitted solely in developed road areas. All vehicles must be street licensed and operated by licensed driver

• Bicycles permitted where posted. Class I electric bicycles permitted on trails. Class II and III electric bicycles restricted to road use

• Equestrian access permitted where posted

• No commercial use

• No collection of botanical, zoological, geologic or other specimens except on a permission only basis for scientific or educational purposes except as described on page 27, Section V. B. 9. “Foraging and collection of biological material.”

 

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