COURTESY IMAGE                                 This map shows the location of four parcels of land the City of Hoquiam would purchase if it’s successful in its bid for a $3 million community forest grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

COURTESY IMAGE This map shows the location of four parcels of land the City of Hoquiam would purchase if it’s successful in its bid for a $3 million community forest grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

Hoquiam seeking $3 million community forest grant

The City of Hoquiam will apply for a $3 million grant to purchase four parcels of property — about 400 acres within the city limits — for the creation of a community forest.

The property would be managed for forestry and could include trails, bike paths and other public recreation opportunities, said City Administrator Brian Shay, as well as provide a sustainable source of income for the city through timber sales.

“We would go after four different pieces of property” with the grant, said City Administrator Brian Shay. “Two are Sundquist Family Trust properties, and two are Department of Natural Resources property.”

The Sundquist property sits basically “right by the Little Hoquiam boat launch off the end of Endreson Road,” west to the State Route 109 bypass, said Shay. The Natural Resources property is east of the Hoquiam River, starting “behind the Beacon Hill water tower and extends above the Summerhaven addition” to the north, east of East Hoquiam Road.

Unlike the city’s watershed properties, this community forest land is within city limits, “and there’s a likelihood we would have hiking and biking trails that users can enjoy, unlike some of our properties in the watershed that are off-limits,” said Shay.

The maximum amount of the grant, through the state Recreation and Conservation Office, is $3 million, which the city is seeking, and requires a 15% local match. That $450,000 could come from the city’s general fund or its watershed fund.

“I think it’s in the strong interest of the City Council to use general fund money so it could be a beneficial revenue source,” said Shay. “Something like Montesano did with its last timber purchase with general fund money.” Shay referred to a presentation by Montesano City Forester Loren Hiner, where it was said the return on investment in timber land over time can have an 8% return, more than eight times the return on, for example, a typical savings account.

The grant application is due in October, and Shay thinks the city is in excellent position to receive the $3 million it’s seeking.

The Department of Natural Resources about “two years ago did a pilot project, almost like a grant application process, to basically see if there was interest to fund community forests,” said Shay, who leapt at the opportunity. The city put in a proposal for the Natural Resources parcels that will be included in the current grant application.

“We were ranked either fifth or sixth out of the about a dozen projects submitted, and we were the highest-ranking city,” said Shay. “Ultimately the list was presented to the Legislature and it didn’t get funded, but two years later it came up with this grant program through the Recreation and Conservation Office.”

Adding to Shay’s high hopes are the city’s updated watershed management plan and a community forest plan currently in place. Factor in the fact Forterra — a respected and well-known land and natural resource conservation nonprofit — is helping the city put the grant application together, and Hoquiam’s longstanding history of managing forest lands, and Shay thinks the right team is in place to help Hoquiam’s application bubble toward the top of the list.

“Both the Sundquist family and Natural Resources are going to sign acknowledgements that they are willing sellers if we get the grant, so we’re just in a perfect position to show the commitment to our plans to deliver on the terms of the grant application,” said Shay.

Shay added that when he spoke to Natural Resources about seven years ago about possibly buying the two parcels currently under consideration the price tag was about $1.3-$1.8 million, “and it’s been logged since then.” The city would have to go through the appraisal process and pay the appraised value for the properties, but Shay said, “I believe if we got the $3 million grant we would be able to purchase all the property.”