A beautifully conceived addition to the Skagit County parks system is taking shape in Marblemount. Developed under the auspices of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, it is being built on land donated by the Pressentin family.

The 54-acre park will be a unique addition to recreational amenities in eastern Skagit County. Plans call for a large picnic pavilion, hiking/jogging trails, a disk golf course and extensive restoration of salmon habitat in a slough off the Skagit River.

Unfortunately, a plan to open a mine on the other side of the Skagit River, only a mile away, threatens to result in a park no one may want to use. The Cascade Big Bear Mine would introduce industrial-scale operations for decades with high elevation mine road building, blasting, splitting, sorting and crushing, and huge jettystone trucking all the way to Bellingham for barging.

As confirmed by the Department of Natural Resources, the actinolite greenschist indicates “the likely presence of asbestos throughout the entire site proposed for mining” with “the potential to impact the environment and public health and safety.” While the newest addition to the county park system would be affected by noise from mining across the river, its downwind location also raises the specter of airborne asbestos contamination.

Despite this “potentially significant adverse environmental impact,” Skagit County has been remarkably quiet and shown little interest or concern. The county appears willing to simply sign off on the proposal without further detail or review, relying instead on a conditional-use permit issued 45 years ago for a use very different from the proposal now on the table.

That constitutes a failure in representing the interests of this county’s citizens and a failure to safeguard the investment made in creating Pressentin Park. We deserve better.

Jude Dippold


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