One parcel remains to complete Newberry Hill Park

A trail in Newberry Hill Heritage Park’s northwest corner is pictured on Oct. 12. Kitsap County is in the process of acquiring 315 acres from the state Department of Natural Resources to be added to the park.  - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
A trail in Newberry Hill Heritage Park’s northwest corner is pictured on Oct. 12. Kitsap County is in the process of acquiring 315 acres from the state Department of Natural Resources to be added to the park.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Susan Page likes nature walks, and lives just north of Newberry Hill Heritage Park.

She is all for the expansion and development of the park, but she isn’t quite sure what the plan is.

“I think it needs to be known that it is there,” Page said.

Currently, the two parcels of land that make up the park are separated by a third parcel, 315-acres of forest owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.

But as the county pushes forward to unite the park into one, concerns and questions can be posed to department officials at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at Klahowya Secondary School, 7607 Newberry Hill Road, Silverdale.

For Page, the pressing question is whether bullets from nearby Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club could stray from the facility into the park.

“It may not be an issue but I’d like it to be something looked into,” said Page.

Jim Dunwiddie, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the new land would connect a fledgling trail system built on aging logging roads.

“It will balance out the entire property,” he said.

The swath of land was used as timber land. Most of the roadways will be used for trails, he added. The department is currently evaluating the area to determine which should be removed and which ones should remain.

A master plan for the entire park was approved by county commissioners at the end of June. This plan includes new parking lots, trail heads, an outdoor classroom area next to Klahowya Secondary School and a children’s play area. Though the last piece of land has not been acquired, it is included in the master plan, Dunwiddie said.

Volunteers on a stewardship committee have made improvements to the current trails without the last parcel.

Tom Coleman, president of the stewardship committee, said that the northwest corner of the park is complete with signs on the trails but that the southern area “is still wild with no signage.” Right now the committee is not only investigating how to connect all the trails together once the final parcel is acquired, but to make it accessible for users.

“It’s easy to get lost back there,” Coleman said.

Another neighbor to the park, Susan Price, walked the current trails of the park with her grandchildren a few months ago and thinks the additional piece of land and the entire development of the park sounds “wonderful.”

“We have nowhere to exercise unless we go to a gym or walk on a busy road,” Price said. “This will be great.” She is especially supportive of parking lots being included in the master plan since current trail-goers have to park on the side of Northwest Newberry Hill Road.

The process of piecing together the park started in 2004 when the county acquired 247 acres in the northern area of the park and in 2009, received 520 acres of the southern parcel. The portion of land that the county currently proposes to acquire is just south of Klahowya Secondary School.

The parcel is state forest trust land, which means the state took over in managing it and the county benefits from funding earned off of it, said Jane Chavey, spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources. In general, most state forest trust land was once logged and abandoned in the last century, she added.

“The only way the county can get the land, is if the land is for a park,” Chavey said.

Under state law, a county may request the transfer of state forest trust land to the county’s ownership if it is for public park use.

The time frame for the development and completion of the entire park project is not known because it depends on the community’s interest and the cost, Dunwiddie said.

The county must present the proposal to the state Board of Natural Resources for approval.

The land transfer proposal is still being reviewed, said Julie Sandberg, assistant manager for asset and property management of the department. Four state-to-county land transfers are currently in the process statewide.

“It’ll be nice to plug the hole in the doughnut,” Dunwiddie said.

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