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“The Port of Tacoma has abandoned plans to build a logistics and cargo shipping center on 745 acres of port-owned property near Maytown.

That’s fine. The question is “Now what?”

Let’s not forget that the property, which the port purchased for $22 million in 2006, is zoned for a gravel mine, lumber operation, small stores and homes at one unit per five acres.

Before the port bought the acreage, Citifor, a Chinese timberlands holding company, had plans to mine gravel from the site. That sparked residents’ concerns about truck traffic and changes in groundwater levels that could hurt their private wells.

Tacoma forged a partnership with the Port of Olympia to explore construction of a logistics center with cargo and warehouse facilities on a site 2.5 miles east of Interstate 5. The property is adjacent to two railroad tracks, one operated by BNSF Railway and the other by Tacoma Rail Mountain Division. The latter, owned by the city of Tacoma, bisects the property.

Neighbors rallied under the banner of Friends of Rocky Prairie. Theirs was a strong campaign based largely on environmental concerns. The Friends raised questions about the wisdom of developing an industrial site in a rural area. They were quick to point out this is not just any rural area, but property sandwiched between a nature preserve and Millersylvania State Park. The Friends raised questions about ground contamination, effect on well water, light and noise pollution, truck traffic along rural roads and adverse effect on their property values. They waged a remarkable, grass-roots fight.

Their ace in the hole was the need for the two ports to change the zoning on the property, a decision that would be made by Thurston County commissioners. Friends argued that instead of upgrading the zoning to allow a logistics center and cargo transfer operation, the commissioners should rezone the rural property either to agricultural zoning or to zoning that allows one dwelling unit per 20 acres.

In the end, the strong opposition from south county residents and their allies played a significant role in Tacoma’s decision to walk away from the project and put the property up for sale.

Which brings us to that pivotal question: “Now what?”

Throughout the debate, there has been a strong push to preserve the 745 acres of prairie land as it is. That’s going to take some effort and cost some money. Are Friends of Rocky Prairie willing to dedicate themselves to this cause?

It sounds like it. Sharron Coontz, spokeswoman for the friends group, which has a mailing list of 3,000, said, ‘We have a chance to preserve this wildlife corridor for the future,'” quoting The Olympian.

Friends of Rocky Prairie is a group of concerned homeowners and residents in Washingtons South Puget Sound region, including the Thurston County rural communities of Maytown and Tenino.

West Rocky Prairie is located 13 miles south of Olympia, and 1/2 mile from Millersylvania State Park, and forms a rare habitat matrix unique to Western Washington. This fragile environment includes rare oak woodland, wetlands, and native outwash prairie and is home to numerous state and federally threatened and endangered species. The prairie lies within the Black River watershed where agency and organizational partners have conserved over 5,500 acres spanning more than 40 individual sites. Rocky Prairie also forms the headwaters for two salmon-bearing streams running through it, and its hydrology is important to 100s of residents living nearby. In 2006, approximately 800 acres of Rocky Prairie were purchased by the WA. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for conservation and restoration purposes. That agency, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, has spent 15 years attempting to procure the entire 1650 acres of valuable habitat…

In June of 2008, Friends of Rocky Prairie were successful in helping the Ports of Olympia and Tacoma realize that an SSLC was not a good idea for South Thurston County.

Now the effort has shifted to working with state and federal agencies and non-profit conservation organizations to preserve this unique habitat into the future!” quoting their website.

For information and updates, or to join us, email: FORPrairie@hotmail.com


[Ed. Note: Yelm defeated a proposed NASCAR Race Track in a major victory and ended up with the city accepting an application for a 5,000 home development on the site [Thurston Highlands], with the potential to triple the town’s population, even though there are not enough water, traffic and sewage resources here to support such.]

Hopefully, the rare prairie environment will be preserved.

Posted by Steve on July 7, 2008 at 6:02 am | Permalink

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