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State considers future of Bridgeport park

— The future of Bridgeport State Park is in limbo with the state’s lease expiring next year and added interest from the Colville Confederated Tribes.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will hear more about the issue at its two-day meeting this week at The Governor Hotel, 621 S. Capital Way in Olympia. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The park sits on about 748 acres owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers behind Chief Joseph Dam, located off state Highway 17. Washington State Parks signed a new 25-year lease in 1990, which will expire Sept. 30, 2015, according to state parks staff.

Lake Woods Golf Club’s lease for concessions also expires the same day. The golf course sits primarily on park land.

“With the agency’s lease due to expire, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have expressed renewed interest in leasing the Corps-owned land at Bridgeport,” said a state summary of the discussion scheduled for the commission’s meeting Thursday and Friday. “Since both State Parks and the Colville tribe have expressed an interest in the lease, the Corps is required to undertake a competitive selection process.”

The state, the tribe and the Corps met over the summer to review the process, during which the state suggested working with the tribe instead of competing for use of the land.

“While initial overtures have not been successful, State Parks staff remains interested in pursuing such an arrangement,” the state summary said.

Tribal Council Chairman Michael Finley did not return requests for comment before press time.

“I feel like the Washington State Parks, they have done an excellent job in keeping that park in such great shape with the limited resources,” Mayor Marilynn Lynn said. “I realize the resources are even more limited going forward and the need to make sure the state park money is spent in the most efficient way.

“As long as that park is available to the people of the state of Washington and everywhere else, as long as it is still… a recreational opportunity, I’m sure the Colvilles could manage that property just as well as the State Parks. I just hope that something can be done so the park remains open and viable and accessible to the public.”

The parks commission is slated to make a decision at its March 27 meeting whether to seek a new lease with the Corps or let the land go. The deadline for submitting a proposal to the Corps for lease renewal is April 30.

“A staff recommendation to the Commission on this question will be based in part on the extent to which Bridgeport State Park is, or could be, consistent with the new mission and vision of a state park system in transformation,” the state summary said.

Parks staff plans to meet with local and state elected officials and community members, in addition to Corps and tribal officials, to gather input on a final recommendation.

The state and the Corps first developed its partnership for Bridgeport State Park in 1955, after the creation of the dam and Rufus Woods Lake.

“That partnership has been a mutually beneficial one that has helped the Corps meet its recreation obligations and has allowed Washington State Parks to provide public day-use, camping and boating recreation opportunities consistent with the mission of the agency,” the state summary said.

Bridgeport State Park amenities include camping, about 18 acres of open green space and a boat launch on Rufus Woods Lake. During the state’s cutbacks in recent years, the park has been closed between Oct. 31 and April 1.

Lynn led a letter-writing campaign in 2012 to keep the state from closing down the park altogether.

“We have beautiful recreational facilities here in our state and our country, and we just need to really appreciate them and be grateful for what we have, because they are wonderful facilities,” she said.

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