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Tribal Council appoints park board members

SUQUAMISH — It’s been a long time coming for the Suquamish Tribe to have complete control over the land that was the home of its ancestral leader, Chief Seattle, and other Suquamish people for hundreds of years. 

Now, after being owned by other federal and state entities since the early 1900s, the tribe holds title to Old Man House Park, has a park management plan ready to utilize, and most recently, created a board of tribal and non-tribal community members that will ensure the park stays clean, open to the public and serve as a source of cultural education.

The Suquamish Tribal Council announced Monday the first members of the Old Man House Community Park Advisory Board.

Suquamish residents Sarah Van Gelder and Jim Turner and Poulsbo resident David McMullen were selected as the non-tribal board members. Suquamish tribal elders Rich Demain and Marilyn Wandrey and Tribal Fisheries Director Rob Purser were selected as the tribal board members. 

The board will provide recommendations on park issues to the tribal executive director and the tribal council. Members’ terms are for three years and are subject to renewal by the council.

The primary duties of the group will be park management, operations and development. The board will also follow the rules and guidelines as stated in the Old Man House Park Management Plan. That document was drafted by the community in fall 2003 and approved by the tribal council that December.

“The tribal council is excited about the appointment of the park board and is eager to hear their recommendations on how we can improve the park for the general public and honor the park’s rich history,” said Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman.

The tribe solicited applications for board membership through advertisements in the North Kitsap Herald, then formed a committee to review the applications and submit candidates for tribal council’s approval. Six applications were submitted for the non-tribal board positions.

Van Gelder lives near Old Man House Park and is a frequent park user; McMullen lives in Poulsbo and has experience in public and recreational facilities and is active in the North End; and Turner is a community elder whose family has deep roots in the Suquamish and longtime relations with the Suquamish Tribe. All three were strong supporters of the tribe during the two-year campaign to transfer ownership of the park from Washington State Parks.

The decision to transfer ownership took place in August 2004 and deed was handed over June 30, 2005.

Tribal elder Demain lives in Bremerton near his childhood home at the Suquamish settlement of Phinney Bay and is an active member of the Suquamish Tribal Elders Council; Wandrey is the chair of the Suquamish Elders Council, a longtime reservation resident and is active in preservation of the Suquamish culture and heritage; and Purser is a tribal member, director of the Suquamish Fisheries Department and a participant in cultural and civic causes throughout the county.

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