Friends of Rocky Prairie
This page provides an excellent summary of the reasons that citizens submitted a petition in 2011 for rezoning this property land formerly owned by the Port of Tacoma.
WHY REZONE ROCKY PRAIRIE?
Rocky Prairie is located 13 miles south of Olympia in Thurston County, and 1/2 mile from Millersylvania State Park, and forms a rare habitat matrix unique to Washington. This fragile environment includes rare oak woodland, wetlands, and native outwash prairie and is home to numerous state and federal threatened and endangered species (see the Environmental Considerations and Endangered Species web-page). The prairie lies within the Black River watershed where agency and organizational partners have been working to protect sensitive watershed areas. Rocky Prairie also forms the headwaters for two salmon-bearing streams running through it, and its hydrology is important to 100’s of residents who live nearby. In 2006, approximately 800 acres of Rocky Prairie were purchased by the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife [WDFW] for conservation and restoration purposes. That agency, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, has spent 15 years attempting to procure the entire 1625 acres of valuable habitat.
In 2006 the Port of Tacoma, in conjunction with the Port of Olympia, purchased the remaining 745 acres of this biologically diverse area to develop the “South Sound Logistics Center.” Their plans contain numerous possibilities including a rail switching yard, chemical manufacturing plant, solid waste transfer facility, high-cube warehousing, and inter-modal (truck and rail) freight and trans-load operations. This would create a massive 24-hour per day industrial complex the size of downtown Olympia – situated between WDFW’s portion of Rocky Prairie, bordering 3 sides, and a long-term undeveloped forest, the McIntosh Tree Farm.
The Friends of Rocky Prairie, a citizen group responding to the Port’s plans, formed in February of 2007 and has expanded into a large coalition of businesses, churches and conservation groups. They believe this facility is a serious threat to this rare prairie environment, to historic Millersylvania State Park (visited by 500,000 people annually), to the expansive McIntosh Tree Farm, to the delicate Black River watershed, and to the rural treasure of South Thurston County.
REQUEST FOR REZONE
you may know, about 2,000 citizens signed a petition to have the Maytown site
rezoned to a lower density in order to protect it while trying to save it
permanently. The county hasn't had the staffing to handle the request, so
instead, they put the part of the property they felt was in most danger of
inappropriate development under a development moratorium (See
article in the April 16, 2008, Olympian about the moratorium).
The Port of Tacoma’s parcel is currently zoned 40% Rural Resource Industrial + 60% Rural Residential 1 house per 5 acres (RR 1/5). The Port's plans would require 100% (non-rural) Industrial zoning.
The McIntosh property, between the Port property and the State Park, is currently zoned RR1/5.
THE MCINTOSH FAMILY HAS OFFERED TO DOWNZONE APPROXIMATELY 900 ACRES TO RR1/20 (OR AGRICULTURAL) IF THURSTON COUNTY DOWNZONES THE PORT’S PORTION OF ROCKY PRAIRIE ALSO.
28th, 2009, the Commissioners passed an interim ordinance to help
protect Rocky Prairie and other prairies and oak woodlands in Thurston County.
See the news release that describes the action taken on July 28th, 2009, at:
The Purpose of the Rezone is:
To bring the land into conforming use with the adjacent WDFW Preserve, Millersylvania State Park, and the surrounding area – all compatible eco-systems comprising roughly 4/5ths of the area, and thousands of acres.
Current Status of Rezone
During the Spring of 2010, there were briefings and hearings held before the Planning Commission and the Thurston County Commissioners regarding Friends of Rocky Prairie's request to lower the allowed density to 1 house per 20 acres, and eliminate the Rural Resource Industrial designation from this property.
On July 1, all three Commissioners agreed that the Comprehensive Plan should be changed and the property rezoned to the lower density. (The Fish and Wildlife Property will be designated "Parks and Preserve.")
On Sept. 7th, 2010, our Thurston County Commissioners voted to enact the official rezoning of the Rocky Prairie property. They removed the Rural Resource Industrial designation from that property and made the maximum allowable density 1 house per 20 acres.
For information and updates, or to join us, email: FORPrairie@hotmail.com
the creatures great and small