Central Washington residents will have two opportunities in early April to discuss the future of recreation in a block of state-managed land between Ellensburg and Wenatchee.

The Washington departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are sponsoring open houses Tuesday, April 9, and Wednesday, April 10, to share with the public about the work of the citizen-based Naneum Ridge to Columbia River Recreation Planning Committee. The meetings also will provide opportunities for the public to share their ideas with the committee and agency representatives.

The April 9 meeting will take place at the Wenatchee Convention Center, 121 N. Wenatchee Ave. The April 10 meeting is scheduled for the Teanaway Room of the Hal Holmes Community Center, 209 N Ruby St., Ellensburg. Both events will run from 5 to 8 p.m.

“These open houses are an opportunity for the community to come together to examine the environmental, social, recreational, and management implications of developing a recreation plan,” said Dana Leavitt, DNR Recreation Planner.

“We know there is strong support for many different forms of recreation in the planning area, and for preservation of important fish and wildlife habitat,” said Ted Clausing, WDFW Regional Wildlife Manager. “These two meetings will be great opportunities for the public to learn about the project and to share their opinions about the many options.”

Last spring, DNR and WDFW agreed to jointly develop a recreation plan for more than 230,000 acres in Kittitas and Chelan counties, extending from the eastern boundary of the Wenatchee National Forest to the Columbia River.

The planning area includes the Naneum Ridge State Forest, managed by DNR, and the Colockum Wildlife Area and the Quilomene and Whiskey Dick units of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, managed by WDFW.

DNR and WDFW are conducting extensive public outreach about recreation needs in the area. They began by establishing a community-based planning committee, which has met seven times to discuss recreation in the area and to advise the two state agencies. The 15-member committee includes community leaders, recreation group members, resource professionals and rural residents from Kittitas and Chelan counties.

The committee has reviewed management and recreation data about the area and will soon begin to develop draft recommendations for the recreation plan. The committee will review options in May and is scheduled to provide recommendation to the two agencies this fall.

In December 2012, the agencies conducted an online survey to learn about current recreational activities in the area and the public’s desire for future opportunities. Nearly 2,000 people responded. Though the survey was not a random sample, it generated useful insights for the agencies and the planning committee. For example:

Frequency of use: Sixty (60) percent said they had visited the Naneum Ridge State Forest. Forty (40) percent identified the Colockum Wildlife area; 24 percent the Whiskey Dick unit; and 18 percent the Quilomene. Just over half said they visited monthly.

Recreation choices: Camping, hunting, hiking, wildlife watching and fishing were among the most popular activities. More than 56 percent said they camped in the area despite the lack of developed facilities, 50 percent said they hunted, 41 percent hiked, 29 percent watched wildlife, and 24 percent went fishing.

Motorized activities: Survey respondents said they use several forms of motorized travel. About 25 percent said they drove four-wheel drive vehicles, 23 percent used all-terrain vehicles, and 19 percent used motorcycles. About 23 percent identified pleasure driving as their primary activity.

Seasonal patterns: Fall is the most popular season for recreation, with 75 percent saying they typically visit during that time. Fifty-three (53) percent identified spring, 69 percent summer, and 32 percent winter.

Travel times: Most survey participants said they drive at least an hour to visit locations within the planning area, and more than 40 percent said they drive at least two hours each way.

Length of visits: Most said their average visits exceed four hours, and 54 percent said they usually stay more than eight hours. Seventy-two (72) percent said they had stayed overnight, usually car/tent camping.

For more information: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/RecreationEducation/Topics/RecreationPlanning/Pages/amp_rec_naneum_rec_planning.aspx

Image courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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