Rural beauty vs. urban beast

SUQUAMISH — The Miller Bay Citizens Action Group members voted Monday to focus on three areas of concern and join forces with the newly formed West Sound Conservation Alliance.

The annual meeting of the citizen’s group was held at the Suquamish Congregational United Church of Christ where president Lane Holdcroft delivered his “State of the Bay” address.

Although weather and a national holiday observance made his audience the smallest in the 12 years the group has been meeting, he said it was the quality of the group’s members not the quantity.

“There is so much to be done and such limited resources. We must fight the good fight,” he said.

First the group must continue with their efforts to purchase the 18 acres of land known as the Cowling Creek project, he said.

Board member Virginia Cowling, who has by choice or by chance spearheaded fundraising efforts to purchase the land, gave a quick history lesson and update on the project. She said the Miller Bay group has “taken a bite” out of the $250,000 price tag on the land adjacent to Cowling Creek in Suquamish. The land abuts a Suquamish Tribe owned salmon hatchery and two creeks which carry the fish.

A year ago the property was taken off the real estate market and the group was given two years to raise the money to purchase the land. So far through local events and donations the group has raised about $10,000 for the land purchase. Now they are looking to grants to pay a bigger chunk of the price. If the citizens group is successful in their bid, the land will become part of the Greater Peninsula Conservancy.

It is hoped as time goes on there will be some assistance from local government to purchase the land, members said.

The second objective of the Miller Bay Citizens Action Group will be to support the state and county in the “Smart Growth” approach to development.

During the past 10 years, Holdcroft said, the population of the Miller Bay watershed has increased by 30 percent.

“The pressure of man-made development is destroying the bay’s water quality and marine life, particularly its fisheries and shellfish resources,” he said.

The members there voted to join forces with the West Sound Conservation Alliance, which is still in its infancy. The alliance held its first meeting in August to sort out a mission statement. Its survival and effectiveness depends on other small environmental groups to join. Groups such as Cutthroats of Carpenter Creek, League of Women Voters, Association of Rural Residents of Kitsap County and others have already expressed interest. Miller Bay members supported the idea saying the alliance would offer a forum to discuss a broad range of issues.

The group also plans to initiate more nearshore habitat activities modeled after the Liberty Bay Nearshore Habitat Project. Members were asked to consider becoming Miller Bay Beach Stewards and given a list of proposed duties.

Sara Simrell of the Kitsap County Department of Community Development also presented information about salmon and the Endangered Species Act.

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