ROSS

One Opportunity to Get it Right

One year ago, the pieces fell into place to expand a years-long project to preserve the land surrounding the Port Gamble Bay to benefit local residents, along with the ecological environment and native wildlife. Kitsap County has been humbled by recent efforts of the community and multiple partners working to make the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project’s vision a reality. The broad-based commitment is what sets it apart from so many of the land conservation projects across the region.

The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project is a landscape-level effort to conserve up to 6,700 acres of forest, wetlands and shoreline surrounding Port Gamble Bay in north Kitsap County. The Project is a once-in-history opportunity to help sustain our region's quality of life, environmental health, and economic vitality. It has the potential to shape the future of the entire Kitsap Peninsula and has been championed by a broad coalition of partners including Kitsap County, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, the Great Peninsula Conservancy, Forterra, Pope Resources and the community at large.

If successful, we can look forward to spectacular forestland and shoreline that serves as a backbone to a regional land and water trail system, giving residents and visitors education and recreation opportunities throughout the peninsula.  Preservation of these lands for public use and enjoyment will enrich our citizens, support healthy lifestyles, sustain cultural traditions, and support commercial enterprises including a robust and growing eco-recreation industry.

 

THE IMPACT

This unprecedented collaboration lead to the signing of an option agreement between Forterra and Pope Resources that gave the community time to secure funds to purchase up to 6,700 acres. Over one hundred community members gathered at the Port Gamble Pavilion to celebrate in the signing and the work to come. Looking out at the blue waters of Port Gamble Bay, representatives from each spoke about why this effort was important to them.

Ecological: Supports environmental systems of Port Gamble Bay, Hood Canal, and Central Puget Sound at a watershed level.

  • Rich and productive nursery for endangered salmon species and critical stocks of forage fish
  • Provides significant wintering habitat for ducks and other marine birds
  • Supports the food chain for marine mammals

Recreational: Draws thousands of outdoor recreationists annually

  • Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail is part of the regional Cascadia Marine Trail and National Water Trails System
  • Add critical links to the Sound to Olympics Trail- a planned regional shared use trail across Kitsap County that will connect to the Olympic Discovery Trail and Washington State Parks’ Cross-State Trail. This trail will accommodate cyclists, runners, equestrians, and people of all ages and abilities.

Cultural: Provides fundamental cultural, spiritual and subsistence resources to the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish Tribes.

Economic: Contributes to the local economy by providing jobs in eco-tourism and recreation, while protecting fishing and shellfish harvesting jobs for the region.

Thus far the community and project partners have successfully raised over $6M in federal, state, local and private funding and spent countless volunteer hours to conserve 900 acres of sensitive areas and wildlife habit including 1.5 miles of saltwater shoreline and 70 acres of tidelands.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The excitement and enthusiasm shown in the Pavilion four years ago has never waned. Now that the first 900 acres are in public ownership, the community is taking part in shaping the management plans for those parks.

But this is just the beginning. Also, in the works in the coming year:

  • 180 Acres at Grovers Creek

The Great Peninsula Conservancy is leading a campaign to conserve lands at Grovers Creek and the surrounding lush forests and wetlands that nourish North Kitsap's Miller Bay.

  • 484-Acre Community Forest

A pilot project of the DNR Community Forest Trust Program hopes to establish the second community forest in Washington protecting working forestland.

  • An additional 3,000 Acres of Forest

A large part of the remaining puzzle is the protection of the forestland south of Port Gamble and adjacent to the 535-acre Shoreline Park acquired in 2014 by Kitsap County. There are several pending public grant applications and local investments for acquisition, including funds to create a new regional mountain bike park.

By working with many partners, being creative in our search for funding and the passion of our community, we will succeed in protecting these lands for all time.

 

Contribution By the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners

Photo+Image Credit:  Kitsap Forest & Bay Project

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