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State Park plan to sell land near Nolte draws questions

Nolte Park auction - Courtesy photo
Nolte Park auction
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Washington State Parks hopes to take in perhaps a half-million dollars by selling unused land adjacent to Nolte State Park, but descendants of the Nolte family are none too thrilled with the idea.

At issue is a 27-acre parcel of land directly opposite the popular park north of Enumclaw, just across Veazie-Cumberland Road. Members of the State Parks Commission declared the land surplus months ago after determining it has no potential value to the state system. Bids will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Aug. 13 with a minimum purchase price of $469,999.

Family history

 

Old-timers will remember a time when the state wasn’t involved in the forested land surrounding pristine Deep Lake. The Nolte family operated a resort on the property, which has always been a popular spot for swimming, family picnics, walking the trail around the lake and fishing.

The resort eventually closed and, decades ago, Minnie Nolte decreed in her will that the land be given to the state’s park system so the public could continue to enjoy everything the site has to offer.

The state created a day-use park – all on land west of Veazie-Cumberland Road – a  jewel in the state system that includes more than 7,100 feet of shoreline around Deep Lake. It has been a popular destination since.

Financial troubles

 

State Parks has, in recent years, been plagued by an ever-tightening budget. As an offshoot, the department has looked to best utilize its holdings, a process that includes divesting itself of unused land.

That’s where the 27 acres adjacent to Nolte State Park comes into play. It was part of the land obtained through Minnie Nolte’s generosity but has never been considered part of the park.

A few years ago, park planners thought the land might be turned into a septic system to serve the park, but that idea was scrapped due to high costs.

Finally, it was recommended the 27 acres be considered surplus and put on the auction block. The state has retained one acre for future use as a trailhead and also has kept a 60-foot easement along the road to provide a forested buffer between the park and future development of the land.

Differing views

 

The Nolte family has scattered through the years, but still has connections to the Enumclaw area. A little more than a week ago, family members heard of the auction plans and began studying their options. A copy of Minnie Nolte’s will was pulled from the files and forwarded to an attorney.

Taking the lead are three sisters – grandnieces of Minnie Nolte – on behalf of their 93-year-old mother, who was a niece of Nolte’s and lived for years on the resort property. The sisters are divided among Alaska, Colorado and the East Coast; their mother lives in Alaska.

Mary Vivano, the sister in Colorado, said the family understands the state’s financial plight and, in the end, may not actively oppose the sale. The biggest concern, she said, is the precedent such a move could set. They worry that a day would come when parts of the existing part could be declared surplus and handed to the highest bidder.

There’s also the issue of Minnie’s will, as the family is adamant that her final wishes be respected.

Dated Aug. 1, 1971, the will contains the following excerpt about the former resort property: “It is intended that the bequest herein shall apply to all the tracts which I own in this area and is to include a certain parcel lying across the road from the main tract. ...I hereby give, devise and bequeath the same to the State of Washington to be held, administered and managed by the Park or Park and Recreation Department of the State of Washington and which shall be used for the benefit of the public and especially, and if possible, for children and young people. I specify that the park shall be known as “Nolte Park.” It shall not be sold, transferred, or used for other than park purposes except as hereinafter provided.”

For its part, State Parks is confident it has the legal right to auction off land that has been declared surplus. A department representative said the original agreement was reviewed by legal staff before the process was started.


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