Illahee Forest fighting 'park dumping culture'

You’ve just cleaned your yard.

Gum wrappers, beer cans and plastic soda bottles from passing cars, dead branches from trees, “gifts” from neighborhood dogs running loose.

It’s all cleaned up. You breath a sigh of relief and re-enter your house. The next morning, the trash is back. In fact, it’s doubled — or tripled.

That’s the problem with one of the county’s newest and largest parks — the 353-acre Illahee Forest. Despite the best efforts of volunteers to keep it clean, it’s being thoroughly trashed.

Irwin Krigsman, a retired CK schools administrator who lives near the park, has been active in trying to keep the park clean for years.

He says it’s a losing battle.

“We just cleaned it up six months ago,” said Krigsman, referring to himself and a host of citizen volunteers, loosely associated through the Illahee Community Club. “And its worse than ever ... it’s just horrible.”

Krigsman gave the CK Reporter a recent tour from the park’s eastern entrance — one of the most difficult to enter due to trenches cut in the road by the county to inhibit vehicles.

There was an old couch at the very entrance, and in the trenches nearby were old TVs, Christmas trees, long-defunct political signs, old bicycles, a bed frame, toilet seat, broken kitchen table, tires, propane tanks, baby seats and car parts, among other things.

A few hundred feet further in, were several wrecked cars and more car parts. The paths were churned into mud from motorcycles and four-wheelers illegally using the park.

“We had a big dumpster out there at the street” at the east end of N.E. Fuson Road, he said. Volunteers picked up hundreds of pounds of trash just six months ago.

“It’s really discouraging to see this much trash put down here — just since we last cleaned up,” he said.

Krigsman said people often dump trash in the park they think can’t be dumped or recycled elsewhere. But most of the trash in the park can be stuffed into a standard trash can, recycled at a metals recycler, or disposed of free at the county’s Hazardous Materials station in the industrial park, near Bremerton National Airport on Highway 3.

A frustrated Krigsman has contacted officials in recent days.

Sheriff Steve Boyer told Krigsman he’d forward the information to the county’s Patrol Division.

“It’s unfortunate we have to deal with so much of this type of behavior,” said Boyer in an e-mail to Krigsman. The Sheriff went on to say deputies have had some success at investigating dumping when evidence is found — such as an envelope with someone’s address. He also informed Krigsman that commissioners authorized hiring four new deputies, which will help the Sheriff’s Office patrol the area.

Parks Director Cris Gears said the dumping has been going on for decades.

“The state never did anything about the mess and we’ve inherited it,” he said, adding that the county acquired a kind of “park-dumping culture” in the area. The county has a similar but less serious problem at Banner Forest, the county’s largest park, located southeast of Port Orchard. Banner is a square mile of forest.

Gears said that dumping is a widespread problem in county parks, but “Illahee is as bad as it gets.” The county collected 10,000 pounds of trash from Illahee over the past year.

The Parks Department launched a massive clean-up of the fairgrounds last spring, and found tons of the “most amazing stuff,” he said, similar to the trash now found in Illahee Forest.

“We could fence it all ... but that keeps out the good guys as well as the bad. Besides,” he added, “the bad guys have no reservations about knocking down fences.”

Illahee Forest park at a glance

The Illahee Forest, now a Kitsap County park, serves as watershed for both Illahee and Steel creeks. The 353-acre park was owned by the state under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources. It was forest “trust” land in reserve to fund building schools by selling off portions for logging and development.

When the Illahee Community Club heard that the entire forest was scheduled for logging seven or eight years ago, due to its proximity to the increasingly urbanized Highway 303 corridor, Krigsman and others contacted county and state leaders and were able to get a bill through the legislature to allow the county to acquire it as a park.

“It’s like a lot of things.” commented county parks chief, Cris Gears ruefully. “It started out as a good idea to acquire the park, but taking care of it is another story.”

The law will be watching

Kitsap County is going to use Illahee Forest Park as a pilot program in which it will post signage prohibiting dumping and unauthorized vehicular traffic. This will give deputies the power to issue citations, said Parks Director Cris Gears.

The county will try to find off-duty deputies to keep an eye on the park, he said. Dumping trash in a public park is a misdemeanor with maximum fines of up to $250 or 90 days in jail.

The park will eventually be developed for camping and hiking trails. Many unauthorized roads have been cut through by off-road vehicles.

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