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Proposal would create 7,000 acres of public parkland in North Kitsap

Kitsap County's inventory of parkland could double if a proposed agreement with Pope Resources is approved.

Under the deal, Pope would transfer up to 7,000 acres of North Kitsap timberland to the county while being allowed denser development in Port Gamble.

North End County Commissioner Steve Bauer and Jon Rose, president of Pope's Olympic Property Group, hope to have an agreement between Pope and the county approved in the next two years.

First they are gathering support for their "North Kitsap Legacy Partnership" with local government, conservation and business groups. Bauer and Rose will present the plan North End citizen councils in February.

"This is going to take a lot of people to pull off," Bauer said. "This is a very big project."

The deal could more than double the county's nearly 6,000-acre parkland inventory and create trail corridors between several North End communities.

Pope would transfer a 2,000-acre block of property between Driftwood Key in Hansville and the Port Gamble S'Klallam reservation. Three thousand acres of property south of the town of Port Gamble would become public, along with 1.5 miles of shoreline on the west side Port Gamble Bay.

A land transfer would link this property to the North Kitsap Heritage Park and Olympic's planned Arborwood development south of Kingston.

Rose said Pope is interested in transferring the property because it would be difficult to develop under county code and the state law. The company spent nearly 20 years trying to gain approval for its 751-unit Arborwood neighborhood. Timber harvests have also become more difficult as North Kitsap's population grows, Rose said.

"It's really time to move these things on from our company's point of view," Rose said. "It probably should have been moved on a long time ago."

Pope would focus on developing Port Gamble, the former North Kitsap mill town it owns and manages.

Through the agreement with the county, Rose said Pope hopes to add more density to Port Gamble than is allowed under its zoning. Rose said the company would consider adding about 1,000 homes to the 120-acre town and surrounding area. There are currently about 35 houses. Rose said the idea would be to create a self-supporting tax-base in the town, which is subsidized by the company. Pope would look to attract more businesses to the town to service the new population.

Port Gamble's historical look would still be a priority, Rose said.

"It's only going to be augmented as an authentic village rather than a postcard place," Rose said.

The land transfers to the county would happen in several ways.

Pope would grant some of the property directly to the county in exchange for the county allowing higher density development in Port Gamble than is currently allowed.

Other slices might be sold to conservation groups to be made public. Pope could also transfer the county land in exchange for securing state and federal funding for water and sewer upgrades in Port Gamble.

Adding the acreage would leave the cash-strapped county with development and maintenance costs. Bauer said the county could cover those expenses by allowing some selective logging and plant harvesting permits on the property.

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