Westport links proposal undergoing review

Recent studies assess environmental, economic implications

A proposal for a new golf course on the shores of Westport is continuing to move through the vetting process, and has now been examined from an ecological and economic lens.

As part of the project’s master planning effort, the public will have a chance to hear an update on the project — a “Scottish-style links” golf course in Westport Light State Park — at a public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ocosta Elementary School Multipurpose Room at 2580 Montesano St. S in Westport.

The project has existed in the public realm since 2019, when Westport Light Gold LLC approached Washington State Parks about building the course — along with a 30 to 40-room lodge in Westport. Early estimates have pegged a $33 million price tag, including related off-course mitigation.

The State Parks Commission will ultimately make a decision on the proposal, which still has to undergo state Environmental Protection Act standards and an Environmental Impact Statement.

After Westport Light State Park was created in 2015, the State Parks Commission formed a 34-acre Recreation Concession Area within the park, one of four pilot sites in the state. Those areas serve “to create an avenue through which to encourage private investment in state parks amenities,” which in this case, includes golf courses.

The state has already worked with contractors to produce a number of environmental analyses, including habitat, restoration, vegetation, coastal and hydrologic studies.

The 604-acre state park fills the northwest corner of the peninsula between the town of Westport and Half-Moon Bay.

Over 400 acres of the park includes wetlands, which are protected by the state’s Shoreline Management Plan and by the federal Clean Water Act. However, some upland areas do exist toward the northern portion of the park.

Vegetation and habitat studies found three species of sedges or willows that were either “threatened” or “imperiled” according to state classifications. The habitat study found two bird species — rufous hummingbird and olive-sided flycatcher — that are federally listed as “birds of conservation concern.”

Developers will have to navigate another fragile ecosystem — sand dunes — in order to move forward with the proposal. Coastal studies found consistent dune retreat along the shoreline of the park, and estimated that amenities in the park could be at risk by 2030 under a “moderate-risk scenario.”

While the proposed course faces several environmental hurdles, initial economic surveys have identified its significant economic potential.

As a one-time economic impact, development and construction of the project will create 349 jobs and $55.6 million in economic impact, according to the study. That’s not including the ongoing — or permanent — economic impact of roughly 300 jobs and $30 million payroll.

In addition, the city of Westport, Grays Harbor County and the state will receive a total of $3 million in annual tax receipts.

The course is also expected to increase visitors to the park. In 2022 the park saw 439,000 visitors and garnered $73,000 in revenue.

The upcoming informational meeting will provide a summary of the environmental and economic studies completed thus far.

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