Officials, residents plan future of Chico watershed

A sparse crowd attended an open house Wednesday, March 6 to discuss the future of the Chico watershed.

There were almost as many state, county and city officials as members of the public at the forum on the future of the 10,000-acre watershed.

The turnout (about 15 people) was a bit light for officials who were hoping to see 50 or more people. But officials were pleased with the amount of feedback they received.

“I’m always surprised at the people that have been there for 50 years,” said Paul Nelson, Chico watershed project coordinator for the County Department of Community Development. “They are the ones that have a lot of good historical information because they give you a sense how things have changed.”

The open house was the first step in creating a watershed use plan. Those organizing the project hope to prepare an assessment of the watershed, establish an alternative futures plan and analyze the possible scenarios, then implement a plan for the next 50 years.

“The process we’re using for this planning is called ‘alternative futures,’” Nelson said. “The idea is that we will gather a core group of watershed residents, as well as members of different stakeholders, to develop different scenarios about what the future of the watershed might look like. These open houses are a recruiting tool to gather people that are interesting in being in that planning group.”

At the March 6 open house, Nelson discussed the history of the Chico area. It once was a gathering place for Puget Sound American Indian tribes.

The first white settlers in the area were loggers and farmers who cleared the land and established homesteads at Chico, Wildcat Lake and Kitsap Lake.

Discussion during the three-hour session touched on wildlife, watershed habitat, flood problems, community planning and open space.

“What happens (to the wildlife) in Chico Creek will likely effect what happens outside Chico Creek. And vice versa, if Chico Creek decides not to do any more development — but they decide to develop the rest of the peninsula — it will certainly effect what Chico Creek looks like,” said Mary Linders, a state conservation biologist.

The state is currently conducting a survey of wildlife on the Kitsap Peninsula to determine the number and types of species living here. That information will be incorporated into the watershed survey.

Linders said a number of species, such as the spotted owl, have disappeared due to the destruction of their native old-growth forest habitat. Other non-native species, such as opossums, have flourished in their stead in the younger, replanted forests that cover 65 percent of the Chico Creek watershed.

Watershed residents have a chance to establish their community’s own new identity with the help of a partnership of federal, state, tribal and local agencies by taking part in the Chico Creek watershed advisory committee.

Applications to join the group will be accepted through Friday, March 15, and are available by calling County Volunteer Coordinator Jan Koske at 337-4560.

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