Council green lights cabin at Nelson Park

POULSBO — With council’s blessing, another piece of Little Norway’s history will be getting a new life at Nelson Park in the near future.

But this time, the project’s a little more than a renovation.

Last week, the Poulsbo City Council unanimously concurred with a proposal to site the 100-year-old Martinson cabin at the park at the headwaters of Liberty Bay. The plan was drafted by Bight of Poulsbo founder Bill Austin, who took on saving the structure late last year.

“I feel very confident about the whole thing. It seems to be going quite well,” Austin said following the thumbs up from council at its March 10 meeting.

The cabin, previously located near the intersection of Stottlemeyer Road and Bond Road, was built around 1890 by Poulsbo pioneer Mikal Martinson, who immigrated from Norway in 1882. The 40-acre homestead was a dairy farm and is now the location of Vern’s Organic Topsoil, founded by Vern and Pat Martinson and now owned by Sam and Cathleen Allen.

The family had been trying to find a new home for the structure, which is believed to be one of the only of its kind left in Washington State, since maintenance had become cumbersome in recent years. After finishing restoration of the 1900s Nelson farmhouse, Bight of Poulsbo members were ready to take on a new project and the Martinson cabin fit the bill.

Austin first suggested the Bight donate the cabin to the City of Poulsbo in August 2003. Two months later, the idea received a unanimous vote of confidence from council, which allowed the Bight to take the dovetail-jointed structure apart for transport. While council members had expressed confidence that the cabin belonged at Nelson, Wednesday was the first official support of the plan.

“It’s obvious to me, I believe, that the city does want it there and that makes me feel good,” Austin said.

Development of Nelson Park, which is taking place under the direction of the Poulsbo Parks and Recreation Department, is expected to be finished around June 1. Until crews from contractor Vision Builders of Port Angeles are off the site, work siting the cabin is on hold.

“On a project like this, the contractor more or less has possession of the park,” explained Parks and Recreation Director Mary McCluskey.

The good news for the Bight, however, is that Vision Builders crews are on schedule at the moment. Bight volunteers plan to be out at Nelson Park as soon as possible to begin the process of piecing the cabin back together. However, how long it will take is anybody’s guess.

“Who knows?” Austin said. “It’s going to be a squeeze. They want to finish the park before we start so everything is going to be just finished and we’re going to have to be very cautious.”

Austin added that if he’d had his choice, the Martinson structure would have been installed first. He said he estimates needing about 10,000-square feet to lay all of the pieces out to ensure they’re put back in the right order — space he doesn’t foresee having at the completed park.

“If you ask me, I think it was done backwards,” Austin said of the park. “If we’d put the cabin in first, then they would have been able to do the plantings around it and put the sidewalks around it and things like that.”

But McCluskey said that doing the park work first is going to have at least one advantage for the Bight. Austin has requested that the city run a power line from the caretaker’s residence at the Nelson farmhouse to the cabin to allow for security lights and cameras. Council also agreed Wednesday night to fund a $1,700 change order to Vision’s contract to have the trench dug to hold those power lines. McCluskey said the work will be done before the park’s driveway is paved.

“It’s better to do it now and not have to worry about how we would accomplish that after the driveway is finished,” McCluskey commented.

Council also agreed that Poulsbo will pay for about $1,500 in permits that will accompany the cabin’s reconstruction. The source of the money for both of these costs will be discussed by the Finance/Administration Committee at its next meeting.

On the Bight’s side, volunteers will be responsible for laying a concrete pad that will become the cabin’s foundation. They will also put the cabin back together and make sure it is structurally sound. Austin said one side of the cabin is rotten and may need to be replaced with something like plexiglass or a barn door.

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