County council eyes future of 78th Street Heritage Farm
Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy is worried about the future of the 78th Street Heritage Farm. During Tuesday’s council meeting, Medvigy requested the prosecuting attorney’s office look at options for preserving the farm for agricultural uses in perpetuity.
“What I heard is that, with our new stakeholder group for our next round of ‘What are we going to do with Heritage Farm,’ what was posited was come up with something that’s self-sustaining or we’re going to have apartments here,” Medvigy said during the meeting.
In August, the county formed a new five-member technical advisory team tasked with finding a way to make the site financially solvent while increasing or preserving public access.
Medvigy said that message from the advisory team got him thinking about how to preserve and protect the farm site. Medvigy said one suggestion would be to create a conservation easement.
“Why don’t we at least take that one solid step forward,” he said. “At least put to rest what will happen to Heritage Farm as far as potential uses.”
The county council has discussed the future of the far many times over the past decade. Some council members have suggested selling the site so it could be used for housing or commercial development. Other suggestions have included a farmers market, charging public access fees or developing at least part of the site into a community park.
The farm has a rich history dating back 150 years when the county began operating a poor farm along the south side of Northeast 78th Street. Later, the site was used as a research and experimental farm by WSU Extension before it was transferred back to the county in 2008.
Medvigy said he feared that “sometime down the road” another council may decide to sell the farm unless something is done now to protect it.
“Forward progress on a Heritage Farm future has been painfully slow and unacceptable to me,” Medvigy said in an email to The Columbian on Wednesday. “As we organize, once again seek stakeholder input (is this the third time over the decades?), I am hopeful this council will preserve its use as staff processes lumber on discussing the details.”
Council Chair Karen Bowerman said rather than only looking at one solution for Heritage Farm’s future, she would prefer the prosecuting attorney’s office research and bring back a variety of possible solutions.
Leslie Lopez from the prosecuting attorney’s office said she would begin researching solution but noted it’s unlikely the council will be able to take action before the end of the year – and the end of councilors Temple Lentz, Julie Olson and Richard Rylander Jr.’s terms in office – but would bring it back before the council as soon as possible.
— Shari Phiel