Proponents, OPG consider options for North Kitsap land buy

PORT GAMBLE — With fundraising lagging and a deadline six months away, Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose has proposed some ways to lower the price of 7,000 acres in North Kitsap that a coalition wants to buy for conservation and public open space.

First, OPG would keep 300 to 500 acres for development, in a complicated formula in which the coalition transfers to OPG the real estate value — or development potential — of the land to be conserved.

Second, the price would be further offset through timber harvests — either by the coalition or OPG. If OPG is involved, it would keep a professional land manager on the property, Rose said. The land manager would oversee the replanting of trees desired by the coalition — a native canopy of cedars, firs and hemlock.

A coalition led by Forterra is trying to raise money to buy Pope’s 7,000 acres in North Kitsap, much of which Pope now allows the public to use for trails which have become part of a regional trails network. Pope wants to sell the land so it can concentrate on development in Port Gamble and on interests elsewhere. Pope agreed last year to hold off on selling the property, giving the coalition until March 28, 2013 to raise the money.

The 7,000 acres are divided into five blocks: the Port Gamble Uplands Block, Hansville Block, The Divide Block, the Heritage Park Addition Block, and Port Gamble Shoreline Block.

Michelle Connor, executive vice president of Forterra, said her conservation group has used value transfers and timber harvest rights before. She said the appraisal, expected to be completed by year-end, will determine how much land the coalition can buy using those strategies and funds raised.

Liz Johnston, Forterra’s conservation transactions director, said the coalition has to date received $7 million from the Department of Ecology for acquisition of shoreline, and $400,000 from the U.S. Forest Service for the Heritage Park Addition.

Grants pending: A total of $3.25 million for shoreline acquisition, $1 million for the Divide Block, and $330,000 for the Heritage Park Addition. Four of those grants are state grants; three of them are “in the top queue” of grant requests, Johnston said.

In addition, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe received up to $3.5 million to help acquire shoreline; the money is part of a settlement from the Navy for salmon habitat impacts from second explosive weapons-handling wharf under construction at Naval Base Bangor.

On Wednesday, Rose said he’s confident enough money will be raised to acquire the shoreline block, considered the priority by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and others because of its location on Port Gamble Bay.

A lot is happening now regarding the Port Gamble area.

Rose said Wednesday that OPG will submit its Port Gamble master plan to the county by the end of the year. That plan calls for development of homes, an inn, a dock, waterfront trails, and an agricultural area with a creamery, garden plots, greenhouses, an orchard and a winery.

Also by year-end, OPG and the Department of Ecology expect to work out their cost-sharing agreement for the cleanup of the Port Gamble mill site and adjacent shoreline by the end of the year. OPG set aside $14 million for cleanup, though the cost has not been determined. The cleanup will include removal of creosoted pilings and an old wharf, dredging to remove wood waste, and capping underwater sediment areas.

Port Gamble is one of five communities being developed in Western Washington by OPG. In Gig Harbor, OPG is developing Harbor Hill, a community of 700-1,000 homes, with trails, a park, performing arts center, sports fields, business park and retail shops. The others are Arborwood in Kingston, Wright Creek in Bremerton, and the Skamania/Swift Recreation Area near Mount St. Helens.

In addition, appraisal of the 7,000 acres is being completed by Anthony Gibbons of Bainbridge. His company, Resolve, has provided real estate appraisal, counseling, mediation and arbitration services since 1999. The appraisal is being paid for by the coalition.

Will harvest 10,800 trees in Gamble
More immediately, Olympic Resource Management will harvest timber in 72 acres of its 4,000-acre Port Gamble Block beginning Oct. 10, according to Patrick Raymond, the company’s area manager.

Olympic Resource Management is the timber arm of Pope Resources, whose forerunner, Pope & Talbot, established the Port Gamble mill in 1853. Olympic Property Group is the real estate arm.

The harvest is expected to be completed by mid-December, according to the company. Approximately 10,800 trees — 150 an acre — will be harvested, representing 1.8 million board feet of timber.

The trees in this harvest are 46-year-old, third-growth Douglas fir. The company will build 1,000 feet of new spur roads to facilitate the logging operations.

“Over the next week, we’ll be posting warning signs for road closure and active logging area to help notify the public about the harvest,” according to company spokesman Bob Silver.

“[People] continue to use the property despite the closure due to fire danger. The danger gets heightened once timber starts coming down and logging trucks are rolling through the roads in the property.”

The last harvest in the Gamble Block was a 66-acre cut in 2009, according to Silver.


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