Neighborhood campaign creates 47-acre Kitsap County park

SILVERDALE — One of Lou Ann Wood's favorite trails begins not far from her mailbox.

The path leads her through stands of maple, cedar and fir, and across hillsides blanketed in moss and sword ferns. Walking through the forest Thursday, Wood paused to soak in the silence.

“This is just too peaceful to destroy,” she said.

And yet, up until recently, this 47-acre woodland in the heart of Silverdale's Olympic View neighborhood was on the chopping block. The state Department of Natural Resources, which owned the property, planned to log the trees. Dozens of Olympic View neighbors, including Wood, pushed back.

Residents argued clear-cutting the land would generate stormwater runoff that could destabilize homes on the downhill bank separating the land from Hood Canal, while also decrying the loss of wildlife habitat and recreational space in the midst of their community.

A neighborhood campaign carried on for more than 20 years came to a triumphant conclusion in June, when the state formally transferred the Olympic View land to Kitsap County. The land will be designated as a county park and maintained by neighborhood volunteers. A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the acquisition.

"It's definitely significant for the Olympic View community,” said County Commissioner Rob Gelder, who championed the project.

The Olympic View property, located between Olympic View Road and Jupiter Trail, just west of Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor, has long served as an informal public park. Paths looping through the forest are frequented by dog walkers and bird watchers. Volunteers clear away brush and downed trees that clog the trails.

“The neighborhood tries to maintain this," Wood said.

There is no parking lot for the property, and the land does not extend to Hood Canal.

Neighbors have also been resisting plans to log the land since at least the mid-1990s, attending meetings, signing petitions and writing letters. The campaign gained urgency in 2011, when the Department of Natural Resources considered clear-cutting the property to generate revenue for schools.

Olympic View residents enlisted local politicians to aid their cause, including Phil Rockefeller — then a state senator — and Christine Rolfes — then a representative. Wood said Gelder continued to advocate for the property even after Olympic View was shifted out of his district.

"He's been a rock," Wood said.

DNR eventually backed off on plans to log the land and instead added it to a list of properties the agency was no longer interested in managing. The transfer to Kitsap County was approved in 2015 as part of the state's capital budget.

County documents valued the land at $1.2 million. The transaction was offset by the state's trust land transfer program and came at no cost to the county.

Now that the property is in local hands, it will be up to volunteer stewards to maintain it, Gelder said. Plans for the park will be discussed at a public meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Olympic View Community Club, 13931 Lester Road NW in Silverdale.

“What it boils down to is what does the neighborhood want?" Gelder said.

Wood knows what she'd like to see change at the property: Nothing at all.

“Just to have it stay like this, for the enjoyment of everyone," she said.

© 2017 KING-TV


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