The YMCA of Greater Seattle has purchased approximately 1,500 acres of land abutting its 500 acres on the north shore of Mineral Lake in northeast Lewis County.
The nonprofit first purchased the 500 acres directly adjacent to the lake on Sept. 9, 2021, with plans to build an overnight youth camp, for $3,650,000. The remainder of the property, according to Lewis County parcel records, was purchased for $5,872,200 on Jan. 11 this year.
The around 2,000 total acres are all zoned as forest resource land and were previously owned by Forecastle Timber Co. The property stretches from the lake to the Nisqually River at the border of Pierce and Lewis counties.
The nonprofit’s plans for a youth camp were thwarted by a decision from the Lewis County commissioners in November not to rezone the property from forest land to a “master planned resort,” which will be required for the building of the youth camp.
In December, the YMCA filed a lawsuit against Lewis County, claiming its decision was “not only erroneous, but also manifestly arbitrary and capricious, discriminatory, and based on rationale outside the record and contrary and antithetical to established land use principles,” according to court documents obtained by the Nisqually Valley News.
The Lewis County commissioners, before voting down the request for a rezone, cited concerns with the nonprofit’s educational programs, partnership with the Nisqually Indian Tribe and other perceived value clashes between themselves and the Y. According to the court documents, one commissioner asked whether the “proposed agreement would be governed by ‘tribal regulation or under just normal citizens.’”
One commissioner, Sean Swope, who represents Centralia, went so far as to ask the organization’s representative where the nonprofit stood on gender reassignment surgery for minors, critical race theory and defunding the police.
The YMCA has denied requests to comment on the active litigation, but said its commitment to utilize the Mineral Lake land for the benefit of youth and outdoor education has not wavered.
The lawsuit is Thurston County Superior Court and the trial setting is scheduled for April 14.
The YMCA has several times touted the benefits of their outdoor educational programs, especially for disadvantaged youth, and shared plans to collaborate with the Nisqually Indian Tribe for education and recreation on the land, which is within what was ceded by the Tribe and others in the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek.
In a news release from the time of the original 2021 land purchase, Nisqually Indian Tribal Council Chairman Willie Frank III stated excitement that the project is “a chance to educate youth about the history of the Nisqually Tribe.”
In previous reporting by the Nisqually Valley News, the Y has shared its intent to maintain the additional 1,500 acres as a “working forest,” while offering the Tribe the chance to utilize it for hunting and gathering. The rezone request before Lewis County was only filed for the 500 initial acres.
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