The in basket: Phyllis Bishop wrote on Nov. 24 to say, “My husband and I came from Belfair to Bremerton today, Wow all the fallen trees. The subject came up of who gets the wood from the trees. My husband thinks since it is on state right of way it belongs to the state. Is it legal to cut the wood and remove it?”
The out basket: No, says Duke Stryker, head of maintenance crews for state highways in this area. For liability reasons that are especially pertinent with something as perilous as wood-cutting, they or the state patrol will chase away anyone trying to harvest fire wood from state right of way.
“It would be just a matter of time before someone gets hurt or a vehicle runs off the road and hits someone,” he said. Unfortunately, we can’t allow it.”
State crews, aided by crews from the Department of Corrections’ prisons, will clean up the deadfall in time, and take it to a recycling center, he said.
That’s not a very high priority. At present, he said, they are repairing and replacing damaged guardrail from trees that fell across it in the most recent storm.
He said the stretch of Highway 3 that Phyllis mentions was the hardest hit area in Kitsap, the hardest hit county in that storm. It was fallen trees, not icy pavement that kept it closed between Sunnyslope and Lake Flora roads the day after, he said. His crews were using plows to push around trees and other debris so power crews could get to the lines in the area.
I asked Kitsap County about fallen tree cleanup while I was at it and found its rules to be different.
Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap public works says they regard storm debris on county right of way to be the property of the adjoining property owner. Most county right of way is in the form of an easement, rather than straight ownership, he said.
So access to fallen trees along county roads would require the same kind of permission from the the private owner as it would had the trees fallen outside the right of way.