Wallace Falls State Park input gathering continues

Planners still gathering community feedback on improving park experience, amenities

Kelly Sullivan

Washington State Parks staff is asking the Sky Valley if Wallace Falls State Park should grow its reach, keep operations as is or look toward a future somewhere in between.

A few dozen people attended the second meeting for the recreation area’s land use plan in Sultan on Wednesday, March 21. They were asked to weigh in on a spectrum of scenarios that could be incorporated into the park’s longterm design.

Parks planner Randy Kline said the community was already engaged in supporting the corridor’s public lands, prior to the start of the process this fall. Different groups meet as often as once a month to discuss the status of existing and potential plans for the area’s wilderness, he said. Kline and his staff have been able to insert that existing foundation into this process.

Kline and his staff are largely responsible for the final product. The state is asking the community to show them how the park is used, and how people want to keep using the park.

Around 100 of Washington’s 120 state recreation areas already have a similar plan created through an agency system called Classification and Management Planning (CAMP). According to Washington State Parks, it takes 10-15 months to complete.

The final product includes zoning sections of the park under state code to preserve heritage, recreation and natural forest areas, among others, and classifying how much each section will be used for those different purposes.

The end result may work in potential acquisitions and changing park boundaries, as well as a developing management plans. Strengthening the state agency’s partnerships within the community is an expected and desired outcome.

Two alternatives were presented at last month’s meeting. Each option included feedback from the people who attended the first meeting in November, and who sent in comments to the agency. The first option would keep most infrastructure as it is now, and direct resources toward their maintenance. The second offers more services, such as adding to the trail system, expanding boundaries and preparing for more visitors. A proposal is included that would allow horse and bikers more access and increase watershed protections.

Parking remains a high priority for the state and the park’s neighbors. There are only 108 stalls in the park, and nearby property owners often deal with the overflow.

The 1,380-acre park has received much attention throughout the region in the past few years. Two visitors accidentally fell into Wallace River near the 265-foot Wallace Falls and died.

Land use has also been a major topic. The park’s boundaries and potential improvements are connected to Reiter Foothills State Forest.

The neighboring recreation area includes the site of the proposed 187-acre Singletary timber sale, which has drawn much debate in the near decade it’s been on the table.

Kline said some community members have joined the planning process because of their concerns about the impact a harvest in Reiter may have on the Wallace Falls trail system. Others, he said, are invested in the operations of the park, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

The recreation area officially opened around 1977. Sections of the forest were among the lands in the corridor logged in the early 1900s. The state-protected area was named after Wallace River, which was itself a nod to early homesteading families.

The park features three lakes, 13 waterfalls, three backcountry sites, five miles of mountain biking and 12 miles of hiking trails. It is home to two rare plant species, the Gnome Plant and Pine-Foot, which are tiny wildflowers that grow no taller than 10 centimeters, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

About 225,000 people visited in 2016. It is primarily a day-use park, although the five cabins inside its boundaries are very popular.

State parks staff took a survey of visitors during peak season last year. About one in five had come from within 25 miles of the park, three in five from within 26 to 50 miles, and one in five from further away. It was the first visit for three out of the four people surveyed. 

The majority who participated were from Washington. Nearly half said they planned to shop or eat in surrounding communities, which helps illustrate the economic impact of each trip.

Kline said the planning process is halfway complete. Each CAMP plan is completed in four stages. He and his staff are sifting through the comments given during the recent meeting. They will be posted online once compiled, he said.

Preliminary recommendations will be brought forward based on the agency’s review and revision of the proposed alternatives in a few months. Once those are vetted by the public, the final draft will be presented to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

Public comment on the alternatives can be made up until April 21 by contacting Kline at 360-902-8632 or randy.kline@parks.wa.gov. Find more documents related to park planning here

Photo by Kelly Sullivan: The Washington State Parks department is still gathering feedback on desired improvements at the popular Wallace Falls State Park near Index.


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