North Kitsap Trails Plan approved

County commissioners adopted the North Kitsap Trails Association’s String of Pearls plan Monday, the first step of many to bring non-motorized walking, biking and water trails throughout North Kitsap.

“We’re resting now,” said the association's president, John Willet, after over 10,000 hours of volunteer work and three years to develop the plan. He said although the public comment period had closed, they continued to receive comments “up until the last minute” and revised the plan to address continued concerns.

Commissioner Rob Gelder said one of the changes since the last time the plan was presented was to include historical and archaeological sites related to the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish Tribes, as well as addressing critical areas and private property.

The plan also hinges on acquisition of 7,000 acres of forest and shoreline property owned by Pope Resources. NKTA, the tribes, the county and many environmental organizations came together under Forterra, formerly known as Cascade Land Conservancy, to find grants and other funding to purchase the acreage by May 2013.

Dennis Oost, senior planner with Kitsap County’s Department of Community Development, said in a previous interview when the individual trails are constructed, they will require their own State Environmental Policy Act study and where applicable, comply with local Critical Area Ordinances.

“What is does is it sets the bar high,” Gelder said of the assocation’s efforts. “By 2012 we will have a holistic plan for the county.”

Willet pointed to studies that show parks and open spaces are a strong factor in a community’s economic development.

“Its not just about tree hugging, we look at everything at the table,” he said. Open spaces and trails are the “tentacles that go everywhere in a community,” and North Kitsap’s 228 miles of shoreline and “beautiful forests” attract businesses and those they employ.

“It’s a testament to what can happen locally and even regionally,” Gelder. “Our community will be better off because of their activities and efforts.”


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