Planning for the stewardship of Kitsap County’s shoreline block of 535 acres in Port Gamble will be discussed in public workshops that get underway at the end of March. The county’s Parks Department acquired the property, named the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park, in February 2014 and was awarded a $175,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology to develop a stewardship plan and committee, and fund associated activities including environmental studies, property cleanup and the restoration planting of native plant species.
A cleanup of the property in February, with the help of 100 community volunteers, resulted in the removal of 60 cubic yards of trash and more than 200 tires. Invasive plant species were removed and portions of the property were replanted for erosion control and to restore 1.5 acres of marine riparian habitat east of State Route 104.
Initial planning for the property will include landscape studies, a forestry inventory and the identification of sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources. According to Steven Starlund, Kitsap County parks and open space planner, priority will be given to the care and protection of these resources.
“Decisions on appropriate locations for public access and recreational uses will not be made until those are completed,” he said. “Stewardship planning requires the understanding of existing conditions then a determination of preservation and conservation measures balanced with appropriate public access and recreation.”
The first public meeting, 9-10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 28, will provide an overview of the park and planning efforts. Public comment will be taken. The second meeting, scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5, will give the community the opportunity to review the draft stewardship plan and provide input. Both meetings will take place in the Poulsbo City Hall Council Chambers, 200 Moe Street.
A steering committee was created to begin focusing on issues, opportunities, conservation, existing recreational uses and their impacts. Use zones are also being identified to define acceptable levels of facilities, activities and necessary resource protection within certain areas. The committee will begin drafting a stewardship plan in early June. After the Parks Advisory Board reviews it, the public will have an opportunity to comment. The final report will be adopted in mid-July.
Elements of the plan will include property profiles and maps; evaluations of current resources and public use impacts; recommendations for allowable public activities, conservation and recreation; and land classifications that delineate zones of acceptable use and preservation. Final recommendations will also include a prioritized list of actions to implement the plan.
The steering committee includes representatives from the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish tribes, conservation groups, the Parks Advisory Board, North Kitsap Trails Association, the Kitsap Water Trails, equestrian and mountain bike associations, neighbors living adjacent to the property, the Olympic Radio Control Association that operates a model airplane site there and former property owners, Olympic Property Group.
For more information, go to www.kitsapgov.com/parks or contact Steven Starlund, Kitsap County parks and open space planner, at sstarlund [at] co [dot] kitsap [dot] wa [dot] us or (360) 337-5350.