Tag Archives: Kitsap County Parks and Recreation

Banner Forest (and map): The Conversation Continues

(Map below post)

I attended a meeting of the Banner Forest Stewardship Committee Tuesday. No new developments since I wrote about friction among some users of the park over what are perceived to be conflicting uses.

Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Departmentparks director Jim Dunwiddie told the crowd of more than 70, is maintaining the halt on any trail building until the county can do a complete trails assessment. Complaints about excessive trail building led parks officials to that decision. Conversely those who build the trails, mostly mountain bike groups, complain that some horseback riders travel the trails when they are too soft, chewing up the earth and creating hazards.

Dunwiddie said his department will focus particularly on the 139 acres managed by the Great Peninsula Conservancy. Kate Kuhlman of the conservancy told the crowd that the forest is “a bowl” with the wetland — a rare “bog and fen” wetland at the bottom, likely recharging an aquifer. Kuhlman also mentioned the wildlife supported by the area deeded in perpetuity to the conservancy’s care.

Dunwiddie said trails in the conservancy acreage have “exceeded the capacity” of the area. Kuhlman said the possibility of bikes or horses on some trails in the conservancy acreage is not off the table, but for now officials will try to enforce a strictly foot-traffic-only rule that’s been in place for years. Dunwiddie said it’s important to come up with a comprehensive trails plan as part of a re-tooling of the park master plan.

Dunwiddie would prefer not to have to segregate users, but there’s the possibility some trails could be closed for some uses, at least at certain times of the year. All that’s yet to be seen, and the county isn’t going to be able to provide any quick answers, due to lack of staffing, he said.

Dunwiddie was glad to see so many people there who care about the park. “We need your eyes and ears. We need you to help make this happen,” he said.

In the past, commissioners appointed people to the stewardship committee, but now anyone who shows up to meetings or work parties is deputized, Dunwiddie said. Lori Raymaker, stewardship coordinator, said people with various skills and interests are needed, fro, those willing to do trail maintenance to folks who can take notes at meetings or, in the future, work on fund-raisers.

Jerry Whitlow, a horseback rider, said he’s tried to sign up for the stewardship committee before but was never called back. Others reported similar experiences. Dunwiddie, with his wry humor, said, “Well, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

The next Stewardship meeting is Aug. 2 at the Long Lake Community Center.

To volunteer or find out more about the stewardship committee, call Lori Raymaker at (360) 337-5372

View Banner Rd SE in a larger map

Friday Afternoon Club: A Walk in the (Banner) Park

I can’t believe I’ve lived in South Kitsap since 1979 but never set foot in Banner Forest Heritage Park until yesterday.

I spent about two hours tromping around the park for a story to run tomorrow. In short the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation department has recently fielded a flurry of complaints symptomatic of tension between mountain bikers and other park users, especially horseback riders.

The flap has prompted parks officials to revisit the Banner Forest Management Plan (find it here Banner Forest Management Plan), drawn up in 2002. They will do an inventory of trails to make sure wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas aren’t being degraded, and to ensure that man-made jumps and other obstacles don’t pose too big of a liability to the county.

The county is also looking for additional members for its Banner stewardship committee. The committee will meet at 7 p.m. June 7 at the South Kitsap Fire & Rescue station at 300 Tremont Street. The public is welcome.

Parks director Jim Dunwiddie hopes better communication with park users will foster improved relations among disgruntled users, and he hopes more people will volunteer to help keep the park safe and clean.

“It’s better to point a rake or shovel at the ground than point fingers at each other,” Dunwiddie said. “We’re going to pass out the words to ‘Kumbaya,’ too.”

On my walk in the park, I saw a number of people enjoying a variety of activities: biking, horseback riding, jogging, hiking and a couple little kids throwing rocks into the bushes. With 635 acres, it would seem like there’s plenty of room for everyone. There’s also the possibility of getting lost. So if you decide to visit Banner Forest this weekend, you may want to bring along this handy map (below) that was on the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation department website.

If you live in a different area of the county, you can find a park near you on the website.

Happy trails to you until we meet again.
Banner Map 0510