Land acquisition will improve access to BBQ Flats near Ellensburg

With new agreements that will give the state ownership of an access road, the public will be able to consistently access BBQ Flats near Ellensburg by this summer.

The land, managed by the state Department of Natural Resources, has historically been open to the public. However, the access road to the pine forest south of Ellensburg crossed private property. That left the public with intermittent access based on owner preference.

Last week, the department solidified agreements to gain ownership of the BBQ Flats access road for on-going public access. The agency will trade 80 acres and purchase another 560 acres, which will allow regular public access by this summer.

Several improvements, such as toilets, fencing, gates and road extensions are planned for the area, which will support dispersed camping, hiking, trail riding and other activities, according to a department news release. The agency expects to finish the work and open the site no later than July.

This open, flat pine forest, located in the Wenas area, is a popular backcountry horseback riding destination. It connects to higher country with views to several mountain ranges.

“We’ve strived for predictable access for 20 years. This is great for locals, yet people from across Washington and other states come to experience this unique landscape,” Mike Drougas, with Back Country Horsemen of Washington, said in a news release. “BBQ Flats will be a wonderful location for all kinds of recreation activities.”

The 2013 Legislature approved funding of $500,000 to help make this action possible.

The future recreation site at BBQ Flats will fall within existing the department’s working lands where periodic timber harvests and grazing will continue to generate funding for public needs. BBQ Flats will join more than 140 sites and 2.2 million acres of DNR-managed lands that provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.