The land around the Hantwick Trail by Moulton Falls has been secured for recreational use, as the Washington State Board of Natural Resources approved measures which placed the state-owned property into the county’s hands.
During its Jan. 17 meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve a set of transactions that shifted the designations of some of the property to bestow the roughly 80 acres surrounding the trail to Clark County for public park use.
The property transfer was spurred after the Washington State Department of Natural Resources called for a timber harvest on the land. When the harvest was announced for 2019, the department received “substantial comments from the community,” said Deborash Whitney, the project manager with DNR’s land transactions program.
Those comments largely centered on a desire to “preserve the trail and forest in its current state,” Whitney said.
The county requested “reconveyance” of the property from the state to the county, Whitney said, so it could be used for park purposes. Under state law, counties can request state forest land under a specific designation if it will be used for public parkland.
The property couldn’t immediately be transferred into the county’s ownership because it wasn’t the required designation. Whitney explained as-is the property isn’t eligible for a transfer, so the land needed to be swapped with eligible state-owned land in order to allow the state to give the land with the trail over to the county.
To meet that need, DNR identified three other state-owned parcels to the south of the one surrounding the Hantwick Trail for a designation swap. The roughly 202 acres had the same $925,000 land and resource value as the 80-acre parcel, which allowed for the change.
Whitney noted the easternmost parcel involved in the swap included a part of the Bells Mountain Trail, a “primitive, single-track trail used for hiking.” She noted that property has been harvested for timber in the past and is expected to be harvested again in the future.
In comparison to that trail, the one by Moulton Falls is much more accessible and popular with residents.
“It’s flat, it’s easy to cross, some of it’s paved,” Whitney said.
The Bells Mountain Trail is on steeper ground and includes rougher terrain than the Hantwick Trail.
Whitney said the land transfers were stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, DNR hosted a public meeting in Battle Ground. Around 20 members of the public came to the meeting to show their support for the transfer.
Whitney is happy to see the project finally come to fruition.
“It is a long time coming and we’re pretty excited about this,” Whitney said.
The transactions let Clark County consolidate parkland near Moulton Falls while making it easier to manage state-owned land in the area in the long term, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz stated in a release announcing the development.
“I am excited that the years of community support and hard work of staff will create a win-win for the state and the people who recreate along the Lewis River,” Franz said.
Clark County Council Chair Karen Bowerman said she appreciated DNR, who worked with the county Legacy Lands staff to get the deal done.
“This partnership between DNR and Clark County preserves this pristine natural area for generations,” Bowerman stated in the release.
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