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County helps permanently preserve pristine forest land

MILLER BAY — A group of citizens has been struggling the past several years to permanently preserve several acres of undeveloped land with the aim of helping the salmon.

But the Friends of Miller Bay received a little help this week in its effort to raise $250,000 to purchase 18 acres of the Cowling Creek Watershed, also known as The Cowling Creek Project.

Kitsap County Commissioners approved the purchase of two parcels of the property at their bi-weekly meeting Sept. 22. Using funds from a previous Indianola land purchase, the county bought a 10.55-acre parcel and a 2.53- acre parcel for $150,000.

By using these funds, Kitsap County can help communities purchase open space land that isn’t prioritized by the county’s Open Spaces, Parks and Greenways Advisory Council, said Commissioner Chris Endresen.

“It allows the community to purchase land that is important to them,” Endresen said.

Members of the Friends group (formerly know as the Miller Bay Citizen’s Action Group), now have three years to raise the money to reimburse the county. But the goal of the Friends group is to raise the $150,000 as early as Sept. 2004, said Friends president Dick D’Archangel.

Since late 1999, the Friends has raised $25,000 in cash. An additional $60,000 has been pledged so far from individual donors, D’Archangel explained. The group has already started to work on meeting its deadline, including organizing a performance from a Seattle gospel group to perform in Indianola next month, plus a harvest festival and an art sale.

“We believe most of the money (for the project) will come from individuals,” D’Archangel said. “We’re trying to locate people in this area that have an interest because of their location and the project.”

Once the money has been raised and the county has been reimbursed, the county plans to purchase another two 2.59 and 2.50 acres that are within the watershed, appraised at $60,000 apiece.

D’Archangel said he hopes the Friends can meet the September 2004 deadline and keep pushing ahead with fund-raising for the latter purchase. If the group is unable to reimburse the county, the government will likely have to sell the property.

If the land is preserved, it would be open to the public for passive recreation as well as provide aquifer protection and a habitat for the animals that live within the forest.

The project and nearby creek are named for resident, Virginia Cowling. She

currently lives on a 24-acre parcel adjacent to the property. Her land is home to Cowling Creek and the Cowling Creek Hatchery (run by the Suquamish Tribe), which has the second largest salmon run in the county. Cowling has given her property to the tribe to be permanently preserved as open space.

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