Scattered throughout the eastern edge of the county, mostly along the Tama Road corridor are roughly 40 separate properties owned by the county. They vary in size from about a quarter acre to over 20 acres. These are known as FEMA Buyout Areas and with the exception of the one at the corner of Tama Road and Highway 99, they’re all closed to the public. The properties were purchased by FEMA after the 1993 flood and were given to the county to own and maintain after that. Per the deed restrictions, these properties must forever be owned by a public entity (such as the county) and are to be “maintained in perpetuity for uses compatible with open space, recreational, or wetlands management practices…” They may never be privately owned again and will never qualify for federal funding, even in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood.
Since receiving them, it has been the county’s stance that the properties be maintained, for the most part, as natural areas. Most of them are too small to develop as parks and with how disconnected they are, there are real maintenance and operational logistic problems to contend with were they to be developed. The largest tract - the one at the corner of Tama Road and Highway 99 - was opened to the public in 2015 and archery hunting is allowed there. Due to its proximity to the city and other homes and properties, firearms are not allowed on that property. It is the only parcel that allows for public use.
Over the last several years, the Conservation Board has repeatedly discussed possible uses of the properties but the deed restrictions and operational logistics involved have proven all the ideas infeasible thus far. The Board is currently assessing the feasibility of offering annual recreational leases on some of the sites.