Poulsbo’s Pope Resources has long been a timber company at the leading edge of forging partnerships between the forestry industry, local government and conservation groups. The company’s spirit of collaboration was on display again this month with the announcement that the company is selling 1,355 acres of forest to Kitsap County that will more than triple the size of Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park. The $2.35 million purchase was funded by the Washington Department of Ecology, and it was negotiated by the Seattle conservation group Forterra.
Now totaling 1,890 acres, (Port Gamble is) by far the largest park on the Kitsap Peninsula.
“It’s a wonderful huge leap forward,” Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder said. “It helps realize a vision the community has had for years.”
The forested property is nearly 4 miles long, stretching north from Stottlemeyer Road to the outskirts of Port Gamble. It constitutes a major chunk of the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project, which aims to preserve nearly 7,000 acres of Pope-owned land in North Kitsap.
Already open to the public, the property has a large network trails and logging roads frequented by hikers, runners, equestrians and mountain bikers. The trails link to the existing 535-acre portion of the park on Port Gamble Bay’s west shore.
As part of the deal, the value of the timber is not included in the purchase price. Instead, Pope Resources will harvest the forest land one more time, in a dozen different sections over the next 25 years, before handing each section off to the county. It’s a good deal for the local community, according to the Kitsap Sun editorial board.
(T)here’s a very positive impact, as our editorial board learned about last autumn during a visit to the park. The replanting of the acreage will be done in accordance with a forestry plan that recommends a mix of vegetation native to the Northwest, with an eye toward long-term growth and wildlife habitat rather than timber value. It will ultimately be a healthier forest, and that’s an added benefit when thinking about the long-term potential for the Forest and Bay (Project). The private benefit in terms of logging will become a public benefit in terms of ecology. It’s a good trade.
Pope Resources still owns about 5,000 acres in the area that was designed to be sold and preserved as part of the larger Kitsap Forest and Bay Project. But that plan needs more private funds.
Because public funds have been exhausted, local groups, such as Forterra and local Tribes, are fundraising and looking for donors to the tune of another $3.5 million. This far, they’ve come up with about $600,000.
Pope (Resources) said the important piece of this is that it happens independent of the company, which has set a date of 2017 to sell.
“This is a big deal,” (said Jon Rose, Vice President of Pope Resources). “We’ve owned this property since the 1850s. It’s the birthplace of the company. In 2007, we agreed that we would sell the property and move on and we’ve now been at this for about 10 years. We need people who think conservation is important to come forward and fund raise to help the county make this happen.”