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Golden shovels and optimism for OC

POULSBO — President David Mitchell said he’d worried for weeks that it would rain Thursday, but the sun shone brightly over the much awaited Olympic College groundbreaking.

“This is probably one of the greatest days in the history of Poulsbo,” commented Poulsbo Mayor Donna Jean Bruce.

The event, at the future site of the Olympic College Poulsbo branch campus on the Olhava property, was a victory of sorts for many attending. The work between the college and the City of Poulsbo has seen tremendous ups and downs over its nearly 10 year history, so many people breathed a sigh of relief when the ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned.

“It’s the effort of many linking hands that saves a project, in this case a campus, it’s sort of like a bucket brigade to put out a fire,” commented Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern, who was repeatedly thanked throughout the proceedings for being actively involved with the project for many years.

County Commissioner Chris Endresen added that reaching the groundbreaking was a huge weight off the backs of the people who had tirelessly fought for the campus’ funding. She said the branch, expected to be serving students in 2004, received state funding but was in jeopardy of losing it every time a lawsuit or Supreme Court ruling delayed the project.

“I kind of felt like ‘Yes, now you can’t take that money away,’” noted Endresen about her thoughts during the ceremony.

Clearing and leveling has already occurred at the 20-acre college site and building materials have shown up, so the groundbreaking was more ceremonial that anything. One part included a blessing from Gene Jones, an elder with the Suquamish Tribe. The tribe had blessed the land before when clearing was to begin on the site, and now Jones returned to bless the area that would someday be what tribal members are calling “The House of Knowledge.”

“We’re all excited about seeing the campus coming to be,” Jones said. “We have a lot of children and grandchildren going through our school system and looking for higher knowledge.”

While the event was about feeling pride for past accomplishments, Mitchell reminded the crowd that the groundbreaking should also be a chance to look toward the future. He announced the formation of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, headed by Boxlight Corporation President Herb Myers, that will move the campus planning into the next phase.

He said while the brick and mortar of the campus is being constructed, the CAC will work to steer what the programming and outreach programs will look like for the branch.

“This campus will be a great community resource,” Mitchell said.

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