The following is from our March 17th,2022 KEC Newsletter
Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park Draft Master Plan
While we appreciate the opportunity and responsibility we have with the PG Forest Heritage Park as well as the hard work of many professionals and volunteers, the draft Master Plan has serious flaws related to environmental impact and prioritizing of users.
Below is a compilation of points raised by concerned KEC members that we are sharing with you for your consideration as you make comments on the Master Plan.
Alex Wisniewski Kitsap County Parks Director AWisniewski@co.kitsap.wa.us
David McBride – Senior Project Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Link for the Draft Master plan is
March 17, 2022
Dear Commissioner Gelder:
We appreciate the opportunity and responsibility we have with the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park to protect and restore one of the largest county parks in the United States. Such a responsibility requires careful stewardship which should be reflected in the Master Plan for that park.
We realize that highly competent professionals and many volunteers have been involved in developing this draft Master Plan, but at a minimum we believe a complete environmental assessment of the park’s natural resources is required. Doing that would provide more opportunity to have a real public discussion about how the park’s importance both to the natural ecosystem and to the entire community can best be protected.
Our comments are attached.
Concerned Kitsap Environmental Coalition members
COMMENTS TO BE SUBMITTED TO KITSAP COUNTY ON THE DRAFT MASTER PLAN FOR PORT GAMBLE FOREST HERITAGE PARK
- Outreach to the public for the Master Plan process has been limited. The residents of the county have had very little opportunity for meaningful input. The 200-page Draft Master Plan and Appendices came out on March 1; the formal public comment period ends on March 18th. It has taken park planners and consultants more than ten years to draft this plan. Although residents of Kitsap County have had piece-meal input on specific issues over the years, they deserve an adequate period to access, evaluate, and make comment on this master park plan. Now that COVID is receding, there should be community meetings to discuss this plan, before it is officially adopted.
- A SEPA assessment needs to be prepared for the Draft Master Plan. The consultants themselves state that SEPA “prohibits the ‘piecemealing’ of projects so the project in its entirety will be included as part of the SEPA review”. No SEPA analysis has been done on this project as a whole, and needs to be done. Once the analysis is complete, the public would require additional time for public review and comment. Hard copies of the draft plan, analysis (including SEPA analysis), and maps should be available for review at public locations such as libraries, as well the Kitsap County Parks office.
- The analysis of critical areas and wetlands is not complete. The one map of wetlands only includes the east part of the Park, not the west portion. Drainage is not adequately described including clear identification of fish bearing streams. There is not adequate discussion of how drainage will be managed as part of trail and facility development.
- There has been no formal wildlife survey done at PGFHP. Since there is little information on what wildlife is in the park, it is difficult to evaluate how development and the placement of the STO will impact wildlife and their corridors.
- The public has overwhelmingly expressed a preference for conservation and restoration, over development at PGFHP. The Draft Master Plan proposes a much greater level of development including glamping facilities, a Tree Adventure course, the 170-acre Ride Park, View Corridors, and other park infrastructure. While park planners say they are taking a nature-based approach, they are bypassing the deeper ecosystem-based planning that is needed for real conservation and restoration. This proposed plan does not appear to reflect the public’s desire.
- The process through which this plan was developed appears to have favored mountain bikers and does not appear to represent the majority of potential users. A number of trails are designated for mountain bike use only and the 170-acre Ride Park development will be dedicated to mountain bikers. Mountain biking, with its needed trail building and maintenance, impact the ability of wildlife to use their habitat. There have been numerous studies that have documented the adverse impact of mountain biker trails on the natural resources of a park, including increased erosion and impacts to vegetation and wildlife. Note also that the Ride Park itself is located in an area which is designated as having unstable steep slopes with historical landslides.
- While there is acreage set aside for mountain bikers only, there is no corresponding acreage set aside exclusively for walkers and horseback riders who constitute the majority of users . The multi-use designation applied to the majority of trails results in both safety issues and excessive wear and tear on trails used by bikers. Mountain biking can be dangerous; a biker was paralyzed from an accident on Ranger Trail in this park. Very bold signage had to be put up to direct bike traffic and walkers in an effort to avoid future accidents. How is liability being handled by the county when there are accidents at PGFHP? Trails that were once single track paths, have doubled in width due to bike traffic. Compare the Bluff Trail with Stumps as an example; a few years ago Stumps looked like Bluff looks today. Bikes cause erosion, root death, and tree die-back. Horseback riders and walkers need trails devoted to them. Please consider holding an open public discussion on the issue of multi-use trails to propose options.
- The purpose of the Sound to Olympics Trail running through the Park is not clear. The “trail” is considered part of the County’s Non-motorized transportation system, and is actually under the purview of the Public Works Department. But if that is the case, it should be designed as an alternative to vehicle use to reduce CO2 emissions. It should be designed to take County residents to where we work or shop. The STO will run through Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap, and will provide little benefit to the central and south ends of the county. And finally, the STO will run through the middle of PGFHP straight up to the town of Port Gamble, owned by and being developed by Rayonier/Olympic Property Group (OPG).
- According to the Draft Master Plan, consultations with the Port Gamble S’klallam and Suquamish nations have not been completed. When will their input become part of this plan? When will the public be informed about the review of tribal legal counsel, advisors, and scientists on the plan for PGFHP?
- The Memorandum of Agreement between Kitsap County and OPG appears to create a conflict of interest in the ability of the County to represent the public interest of its citizens and to have adequate public review of this Draft Master Plan if it has already been decided that the Master Plan will be approved by April 30, 2022. It appears that OPG with the payment of $75,000 has already determined major features of this Park.