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Illahee Trust purchase is a done deal

"There was joy in Illahee Tuesday afternoon.And also Olympia, where Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen and Illahee Community Club officers Audrey Boyer and Judith Krigsman attended this month's Department of Natural Resources board meeting.The board approved the sale of the 352-acre Illahee Trust Land forest to Kitsap County for $4.9 million.The county will pay $1 million immediately, with the balance payable over the next eight years, according to DNR spokeswoman Jane Chavey.Part of the land will become an active park, with ball fields and picnic grounds, administered by the city of Bremerton's Parks and Recreation Department. The rest of the land, including some older growth forest, will be preserved with trails and interpretive signs for the public to enjoy, under the county Parks and Recreation Department's jurisdiction.This is truly a win-win situation, new Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland said at the meeting.The Department of Natural Resources and Kitsap County have worked a long time to make this transfer happen. The people of Kitsap have a wonderul forest for recreations, funds will help build schools this year, and we will receive the funding necessary to buy replacement property to benefit future school children, Sutherland added.And he smiled when he spoke, said Illahee resident and neighborhood activist Audrey Boyer. Boyer and members of the Illahee Community Club and its predecessors have been fighting for 22 years to secure the forest for a county park and preserve it from commercial development.I was just delighted, said Boyer, who battled a cold to attend the Olympia proceedings. We've waited and watched so long, when it happened I almost didn't believe it.The real heroine is Chris Endresen. She's worked for years and years and years on this. She's very good at negotiating things, she's been with us right from the start, Boyer said.Endresen's negotiating powers were put to the test last month, when the deal was nearly derailed by dueling appraisals of the land.The county and the DNR were miles apart on a price after at least eight appraisals.The DNR also declined at the last minute the offer of a parcel of land near Lake Tahuya as part of a swap for the Illahee Trust Land. Endresen showed up at 9 a.m. on the dot for the DNR board meeting, even though the Illahee matter was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. But the meeting went on and on, she recalled. Finally Sutherland recognized the Illahee group, which made the trip especially for their issue, the commissioner said, and put the agenda item forward.It passed unanimously.She was so thrilled she called Commissioner Tim Botkin on his cell phone while he was at the Kitsap Transit board meeting Tuesday.Botkin immediately relayed the news to the gathering: That was Chris, she said the state just signed off on Illahee. Said Judith Krigsman, vice president of the Illahee Community Club, I am proud to live in Kitsap County. To get a school levy (the South Kitsap School District's) passed, and the Illahee forest, in one day is almost too much to handle.Endresen said the next step is to get the purchase agreement from the state, review and pass it at the next county commissioners meeting.Then the fun can begin.We'll start planning a community celebration, Endresen said. "

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