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Suquamish Tribe explores Old Man Park’s use for the public

SUQUAMISH — The Suquamish Tribe wants to hear from the people who matter the most when it comes to the Old Man House State Park — the people who use it.

The tribe will be holding a workshop to develop a management plan for the state park at 7 p.m., Sept. 18 at the Suquamish Tribal Center.

New ownership of the property has been under question the past several months.

While it is state land, Washington State Parks has been considering transferring its ownership to a local entity as part of the state’s proposed budget cuts.

A group called the Friends of Old Man House Park, made up of Suquamish community members, is also offering to assist the state in managing the park.

Suquamish Tribal Council member Rob Purser said the history of the site is a major reason to put the park into back into Suquamish hands.

The Old Man House Park property was once the site of a large cedar longhouse, the home of Chief Sealth (Chief Seattle) and the ancient Suquamish village D’Suq’Wub.

The tribe lost ownership of the village in 1904 to the War Department for fortifications to protect Bremerton’s Naval Yard.

But nothing was constructed and the land was sold to a private buyer. Today, the remaining land of the original village site is the current one-acre property that is the park.

As part of the effort to regain ownership, the tribe has partnered up with the Suquamish Olalla Neighbors to hold the workshop and develop the management plan, said tribal representative Rich Brooks.

The Suquamish Tribal Council has made it clear that the park would be managed in a way that would meet the needs of both tribal and non-tribal community members, Brooks said.

If the tribe receives ownership of the land, the park will remain open to the public and will not permit alcohol, fireworks or drugs.

“If the tribe regains ownership of the park, the management plan would be implemented by the tribe,” Brooks added.

But right now, a plan needs to be developed.

At the workshop, five tables will be set up at the tribal center gym, each table representing a different topic such as safety and maintenance.

Following the session, a plan will be drafted and a community meeting will be held Nov. 13, Brooks said.

The tribe has reached out to the community through other venues, such as newsletters and a survey that was handed out at Chief Seattle Days on residents’ use of the park.

According to the tallied results of nearly 300 completed surveys, the park is a popular spot for neighbors. Users of the park noted they frequent the area for the water access, walking and swimming, picnics, gatherings and for peace and quiet, according to the survey analysis.

“We’re trying to make it as easy and accessible for the community to provide input on the management plan,” Brooks said.

Brooks and Purser encourage folks with questions or comments to e-mail them to Brooks at rbrooks@suquamish.nsn.us or Purser at rpurser@suquamish.nsn.us. Brooks can also be reached at (360) 394-8442 and Purser can be reached at (360) 394-8436.

If residents are unable to make it to the workshop, the survey can be filled out at www.soneighbors.org or www.suquamish.nsn.us.

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