By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
Point Saint George will soon be owned by Del Norte County ? if all goes according to plan.
The 350 acres of old pasture and bluffs veined with walking trails stretches from the cliffs overlooking Castle Island, goes around the old Coast Guard station house to the Crescent City airport.
?It?s the whole enchilada,? said Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure, a negotiator for the deal.
The land, popular with sightseers and trail walkers is currently owned by the Steven Westbrook family.
McClure said the Westbrooks were looking to sell the land and concurrently, the California Coastal Conservancy was looking to buy it.
When the conservancy approached county officials about converting the property to state owned land, McClure asked to let the county take over ownership and management instead of the Department of Fish and Game or some other agency.
As a land buying agent for the state, the conservancy never takes possession of land. By the way, no county money will be used for the purchase.
?They needed someone to take over the management of it and I threw it in the hat that maybe the county could do that,? McClure said.
She and Supervisor Chuck Blackburn said they are very excited about the deal and the precedent it may set for local counties to manage land bought by the state for conservation.
?It may just change our paradigm on how we manage land,? McClure said.
Instead of having a state-owned and managed park that falls under the rules and bureaucracy of all state parks, a locally managed park would take local needs and unique uses into consideration, McClure said.
?It points to where conservation efforts should be ? at the local level and it wouldn?t be bound by the state and federal parks overlay,? she added.
The Point Saint George area is known to be a former village site of the Tolowa Indian tribe. Artifacts and remnants of home sites are said be underneath the soil there, giving the area great historical significance.
It is also a home to several rare plants and the silver spot butterfly.
As the county negotiators in the deal McClure and Ernie Perry, the Community Development Department Director, will work with the conservancy to set restrictions and management requirements for the land?s use.
McClure said she hopes interpretative trails and signs will be part of the plan for the area.
She said after the county takes over ownership, (if it does), the county will be eligible for several grants to pay for the land?s maintenance and possible trail development.
?In my wildest dreams, I really didn?t think we would be given a serious thought. But I really think this is going to happen,? said McClure.