No logging allowed

Despite denials by Kitsap County Parks and Recreation, many in Illahee were still afraid the county was going to “log” a portion of Illahee Forest County Park and Preserve to raise money to support the rest of the park, as well as other projects.

Not so, said Parks Executive Director Cris Gears at the Sept. 10 meeting of the Illahee Park Stewardship Committee, held in the Central Branch Library in Bremerton.

He said it’s like the difference between a gardener doing a little weeding, and a farmer reaping his fields and putting every grain on the market. County Parks is the “gardener.”

“We’re basically tree huggers,” he assured them.

Rumors of logging the county’s second-largest park began to circulate a month ago when Parks officials submitted a management proposal to Kitsap County Commissioners that included, among other things, the possible need to remove unhealthy trees or “dangerous” trees, and trying to get some cash return by selling the wood.

In defining “dangerous” trees, Gears referred to an incident a few years ago in which a young child was killed when an unhealthy and unstable tree toppled. Such trees often have “root rot” or “blister rot.”

Suggestions to county commissioners also included the possibility of clearing undergrowth that impedes trails and poses a fire hazard, and selling it to fern pickers for further income.

Gears said fern pickers would not be roaming the woods at will. Such undergrowth is marketed to florists.

After Gear’s comments, the Stewards agreed they were on the same page.

“Kitsap County is currently land rich and money poor,” Gears said. “If we don’t start acquiring land now, there won’t be anything for our progeny.”

He explained the county had a choice: buy up the land with every penny available and worry about maintaining parks later, or stop buying land and develop and maintain current parks.

He said cleaning-up, weeding out bad trees, and general maintenance and development of parks may be left to volunteers, such as the stewards.

“We need stewards, like you, to take us from owning land to owning parks,” Gears said.

He said there were between 2,000 and 5,000 acres of pure land that “We’re calling parks, but aren’t really parks, yet.”

The county still has a long way to go, Gears said.

“There are no parks at all between Bremerton and Keyport ... and that’s a shame,” he said.

Possible money sources on a less formal basis include renting stalls to food vendors in parks, renting portions to be developed into playing fields, building bird-watching platforms, tree-climbing classes, acquiring the nearby golf course, growing Christmas trees for sale, growing empress trees, selling wood of diseased trees to wood workers and carvers, installing a native plant nursery, or selling wood chips.

Gears said government can only do so much.

“We’re there to be the backbone... you’ll have to be the blood and muscle to get it done,” he said.

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