Parks, Illahee Stewards agree to agree

It was all a misunderstanding.

Kitsap County Parks & Recreation’s “Open Space Parks and Greenways Advisory Board” (OSPAG) and the Illahee County Park & Preserve Stewardship Committee, met Nov. 19, and patched up their differences.

OSPAG informally acts as the Parks Board, and is a County Commissioner appointed body. Each commissioner appoints four members of the dozen on the board.

The brouhaha centered around the Parks Department’s right to cut down hazardous dead trees, and sell the lumber for income — income for the park. Press accounts of the decision gave stewards the idea that Parks & Rec was going to raze the park for cash. Illahee is the county’s newest park, and second largest at nearly a square mile.

Stewards fired back with an “addendum” to the Illahee Park plan that was tantamount to giving the Stewards “veto powers” on board decisions.

The Parks Board said, “No way.”

Suddenly a working relationship between stewards and Parks Department officials turned into “Us” vs. “Them.”

“The Illahee Stewardship ... met July 31, subsequent to the (OSPAG) review and recommendation of the stewardship’s (comp) plan,” said forester and then-steward Rick Fackler, who has since left the group. He made his statements in a memo to County Commissioners Aug. 14. At the meeting, the stewards asked the following be added to the “Joint Responsibilities” section of the park’s comp plan:

“The Illahee Stewardship Committee will be a participant in any decision making activities that involve the removal of vegetation and change of landscape. Such decisions shall be a result of mutual agreement.”

Fackler’s memo to the county Board of Commissioners also included “The (Stewards) were never informed” of the provision to cut down dead trees and sell lumber. This is what further alarmed stewards, in addition to “misleading” press accounts, said Irwin Krigsman, the Stewards’ spokesman.

At the recent meeting of the Parks Board and Stewards, a toe-to-toe discussion illuminated misunderstandings on both sides.

The Stewards’ addendum “sounded like we needed to get permission from them on every decision,” said Parks Department lead planner, Joseph Coppo. “Are they an advisory committee or do they” have political clout? he asked the board.

Krigsman said “Your perception was we were asking to oversee everything ... but that’s not the case. We just want to be kept informed of your actions — and we ought to have input.”

“Maybe a compromise would be to simply cross out the second sentence” of the Stewards’ addendum, said one board member.

Board member Karl Duff also moved that the word “participant” be changed to “consultant,” his motion died for lack of a second. But the first motion, to strike the second line, received a second, and was OK’d, 6-3.

The second sentence, “Such decisions shall be a result of mutual agreement,” was struck.

Cris Gears, director of the Kitsap County Parks Department said, “We need you (the stewards) more than you need us, actually. The Illahee Stewards pass along information we can’t do without.”

He said the Stewards read a news article and panicked. “You should have called us right away and asked us ‘Are you morons actually going to log Illahee?’” He said misconceptions over news accounts and miscommunication between the Parks Department and Stewards were really the culprits.

After the meeting, Krigsman said he was satisfied with the decision, but added that stewards and Parks still need to communicate more.

“For example, the sign they erected for the park is pointed the wrong way to inform drivers of its existence, and a guard rail was put up with no break to allow access for hikers.”

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