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Renovating the community spirit in Poulsbo

POULSBO — “... And finally, here’s the bathroom. Check out the rainbow toilet — it’s pretty cool,” Mason Holmes of Poulsbo pointed out Saturday, completing his room-to-room tour of the aging Nelson Park farmhouse.

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the hammers were pounding as a small work crew converged on the west Poulsbo site to begin renovating the historic home.

Seeming to enjoy the scene taking place around him Mason, who will be attending eighth grade at Poulsbo Junior High School next year, quickly picked up a hammer and got back to his tasks. He was just one of about 10 local volunteers to spend a portion of Saturday at the house.

“Mason would you like to help here?” Grace Harrison asked, yanking out some eye-level nails.

Checking out the project, the 13-year-old responded, “I think I’m a little short for that,” he responded.

“You’re a big man in my eyes,” Harrison added with a smile.

Mason was designated as the rotating spokesman — or rather spokeskid — for the event by organizer Bill Austin.

“I just want to help out,” the youngster explained, noting that renovating the dilapidated structure was “probably” how he would be spending the majority of his summer vacation.

Other kids are running wild, Mason’s ripping out old boards and pounding nails with adults three and four times his age. Why?

“Number one, to help the community,” he explained with a smile. “And number two, I really like tearing down houses, tearing down wood — it’s like a kid’s dream. It’s pretty fun.”

Thanks to Saturday’s volunteers like Mason, Luis Barrantes, Duane Kesti, Brenda Prowse, Wally Harrison, Andre “The rare, red-headed Greek” Olanie, Grace Harrison, Mary Ramsey, Jay Roof and others, the extensive Nelson Park revitalization project has made significant strides over the past few months. Workers have already improved the grounds by removing trash and blackberry bushes.

Even so, the house, according to Austin, is definitely the centerpiece of the effort.

“It looks like a lot of work,” he said, assessing piles of rubble and newly exposed wood on the structure. “But there has been overwhelming support to keep this house.”

Despite the labors, Austin said Nelson house would take longer to overhaul than he originally anticipated. Members of the non-profit group Bight of Poulsbo, Inc. and numerous community supporters had hoped to have the renovation completed by mid-August but after tearing into the home — one might say they have their work cut out for them.

“There’s no way we can get enough done before Mudstock,” he said, pointing out that the Aug. 23, 24 and 25 musical fund raiser for the park was still a go. “Right now, we’re looking for donations, labor, money, whatever.”

Although the Bight missed out on $400,000 from the very competitive National Marine Fisheries Service Community Restoration Project Grant, which offered only $2 million nationwide, the group has a good chance at attaining funding from the Kitsap Community Foundation, grant writer Kathy Barrantes said.

They will be able to secure these funds as soon as there is a stewardship plan or equivalent from the city allowing them to proceed,” she explained. “Kitsap County has done this in many other areas whereby there is a public process for the stewardship plan and the partnership is forged between the non-profit(s) and the county so that activities can follow a prescribed process.”

Doris J. Small, Kitsap Peninsula Watershed Steward Biologist for the Department of Ecology, is also supporting the ongoing efforts at Nelson Park.

In a June 20 letter to Mayor Donna Jean Bruce, she said congratulated the Bight and the Liberty Bay Foundation for its work, noting, “The City of Poulsbo is fortunate to have volunteers interested in natural resources participating in the establishment of shoreline buffers at city properties.”

Small continued, stating that the Nelson Park site would benefit from work within the shoreline buffer to reestablish native plants where invasive species have taken over.

“We support removal of invasive species and planting of native vegetation at

Nelson Park,” she added. “This is usually hard work, time consuming, and not very glamorous. However, the benefits to fish and wildlife resources are well

documented.”

This is something volunteers have known since day one.

“Of course, the plan is to do the entire park — not just the house,” Austin said. “The park is going to happen. It’s going to happen and it’ll be great when it does.”

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