Category Archives: Howe Farm County Park

Howe Farm: Conflict Between Different User Groups Appears Exhausted

Note 3/27: Read the draft memoranda of agreement between the county and, respectively, WSU Kitsap County Extension, South Kitsap School District and Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. at the parks & rec home page.

Let’s be honest, in the past, the fate of the Howe Farm County Park has been a prickly issue, marked by conflict between some dog owners, who wanted the park to remain totally undeveloped, and those who held that the farm should be used exclusively for agriculture.

In my coverage of the park, I’ve found representatives of groups interested in cooperative use of the farm reluctant to pick at old wounds, eager to move on. These groups include South Kitsap School District, WSU Kitsap County Extension and Kitsap Dog Parks Inc., all of which have been working with the county for nearly two years to come up with a mutually agreeable multi-use plan for the park that includes an off-leash dog park (already established) and a host of agricultural pursuits (yet to be established – awaiting the blessing of the county).

On Monday night, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners gave the public one last chance to weigh in on Howe Farm. If there are ardent opponents of the plan to allow South Kitsap School District and WSU Kitsap County Extension roughly 6.5 acres (not counting hay fields) to grow gardens, raise livestock, tend orchards, sell crops and more, they either were not present or didn’t speak their mind.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel told me some of the park’s neighbors earlier were concerned that the school district’s use of the park would amount to “development” that would destroy the pastoral ambiance of the farm. Apparently that has been resolved as nobody showed up at the meeting to complain.

Nor did anyone show up to complain about the proposed agreement under which Dog Parks Inc. and unaffiliated members will have access to and stewardship over roughly 11 acres of fenced area, including 5.5 acres of open space, the rest in woodlands. The memorandum of agreement between the county and Dog Parks Inc. encourages dog park users to join the dog lovers’ organization for a “small fee.” Dog Parks Inc. will in turn “use these funds and other monies raised for the Howe Farm off-leash dog area for improvements at the off-leash dog area” (less small administrative costs). Brian Lyman, capital projects manager for Kitsap County Parks and Recreation, believes “improvements” refers to maintaining dog watering stations and containers for disposing of dog waste.

The current draft of the agreement with Dog Parks Inc. references 14 acres of off-leash area. Presumably that includes the possibility of opening the hay fields to the east of the dog park for off-leash use in the off-season, Lyman said.

If anyone were to have complained loudly at Monday’s meeting, I would have expected it to be Scott Hall. About a month-and-a-half ago Hall, a member of the original Howe Farm stewardship committee, called me to register his opinion that the off leash dog park at the farm-turned-county-park was occupying prime land for agriculture. He felt that South Kitsap School District and WSU Kitsap County Extension were about to settle for second best. Hall said he was going to ask the county for a thorough review of how the farm was being used, stopping short of calling for the dog park to be moved off the high ground that, Hall said, would be prime space for crops.

I wrote about Hall’s concerns, and the opinions of school district and WSU officials, who weren’t necessarily thrilled with Hall’s taking up for their cause.

“We appreciate his energy as a community member and (South Kitsap Agriculture program) advisory member trying to look out for our greater good,” said Thomas Mosby, director of the district’s agriculture and natural sciences program. “However, none of those are concerns for any of the three groups we’ve been working with. We’ve determined to work around any of those concerns he’s voiced.”

I expected Hall to come out with barrels blazing at Monday’s meeting. Instead, he talked about some language in the agreement with the school district that needed “tweaking.” But otherwise he expressed acceptance of the proposed arrangement. He did say he opposed expansion of the dog park into the hay field to the east in the off season.

Tom Donnelly, who spoke at the meeting, served on the county’s Open Space and Parks Advisory Board when Howe Farm was acquired from the Bruckart family. He noted that an off-leash park had never been part of the original vision for the farm when the county applied for a grant from the state’s Wildlife and Recreation Fund to help purchase the land. Donnelly said the district’s proposed use of the park meets provisions of the grant that called for preserving the land for agricultural use.
“The South Kitsap High School Agricultural program may be the last game in town to bring a model farm to the once-thriving Howe Farm,” he said.
After the meeting, Donnelly allowed that he was resigned to seeing the park shared with dog owners … not his first choice. But due process was served.

Notably silent has been Danny Horovitz of South Kitsap Dog Parks Inc., who took the first step toward negotiating with the district on shared use of the park. Here’s an excerpt from a story from December 2006 in which the school district’s proposal first surfaced. The story references a presentation by Mosby at the Long lake Community Center.

“Tonight’s meeting may not be a peaceful one. Danny Horovitz, who has been active with the off-leash dog interests and has met with Mosby, came under fire this week in angry e-mails from at least three others upset with his endorsement of cooperating with the high school and Master Gardeners, who foresee demonstration gardens and ‘pea patch’ public gardens there. One accused him of crossing over to the other side, and another said the 83 acres should be left unchanged.
One told of watching bus loads of students who visited the park fool around, swing on the fruit trees and show no serious intent.
Horovitz replied by e-mail that they should listen to what Mosby and others have to say tonight.
Mosby said he’s seen some of the e-mails aimed at Horovitz and said, ‘That’s OK, that’s what the meeting is for, to provide them with information.’

No wonder Horvitz blasted me some months back for even raising the specter of discord between the dog folks and the ag folks in an earlier article from February, 2007.

Following the opening of the dog park, I interviewed Horovitz, noted his positive comments about the facility and asked him about a observation from senior parks maintenance supervisor Dori Leckner that a fence at the park had been pulled down. Horovitz was unhappy that I would even think of focusing on dog owners who misuse the off-use privileges at the park. He had risked a lot to make peace with the ag folks, and here I was stirring up trouble. He has not returned my phone calls and did not testify at Monday’s meeting.

Speaking of dog owners who misuse the park, I heard from three people I interviewed over the past month-and-a-half that they have observed dog owners letting their dogs run off-leash outside the fenced area. These people include Dori Leckner of the county, Arno Bergstrom of WSU Kitsap County extension and Scott Hall, who after showing me the park from the parking lot scraped a blob of dog poop off his shoe. Leckner didn’t seem overly concerned. She said folks at the park are on a “learning curve” having gotten used to using the property without constraints. She said county staff have to monitor most other county parks for the bad eggs (my term) that give responsible dog owners a bad name.

That leaves one last group unheard from: Those who testified at the meeting I covered for the aforementioned article, who said they wanted to see the park remain totally untouched.
Resident Leona Phillips said “she and others who use the park fear increased activity will disrupt wildlife and the mar the park’s tranquility.
“There are red-tailed hawks, bald eagles in the area where they’re going. This is definitely harassing the wildlife,” she said. “I’m all for these agricultural programs, just not there.”

All I can say is they didn’t appear at Monday’s meeting, although the Kitsap Sun published an article in advance.

As far as I can tell, the time to speak now or forever hold your peace is all but come and gone. April 14 is approaching fast. Anyone with any 11th hour comments should e-mail them to

Howe Farm: Your Comments

First here are links to three articles I wrote about Howe Farm over past year, from recent to remote.
Dogs Ditch the Leash at Howe Farm
Park Work Has Perks for Humans and Dogs
Commissioners Give Nod to Howe Farm Partnership

Second, in response to comments on the story about Howe Farm and a proposal to allow South Kitsap School District to conduct agriculture classes there, I wanted to added some material that got cut from the story due to space constraints. The copy and the comments address the issue of the relative merit of agriculture education.

Here’s are the comments that raise the question:

Posted by mryan march 8
If there are limited dollars available for vocational educational education, is a program to train people to perform work in a field that has NO agricultural base beyond hobby farms the best use of this money?

Posted by dahl March 8
teaching students a hobby is not my idea of educating students. After all, gardening is a hobby and I certainly doubt whether even one out of the graduating class will go into farming. Even if one did, learning gardening is not going to give him/her the knowledge to farm.

Posted by dahl March 9
What I am opposed to is a school district that complains about unfunded mandates, low graduation rates and failing test scores reaching out for something that won’t do the school district one bit of good in all three categories. How about getting the school district act together instead of spreading out into new areas before getting the current ones to work right?

Here’s what the school district’s director of career and technical education said when I asked him about the relevance of agricultural education.

“(Thomas) Mosby said the hands-on experience students get by studying literally in the field is important in helping them meet state standards on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, regardless of whether they will pursue a career in agriculture, because it demands direct application of knowledge, including math and economics, to real-life situations.
The district’s agriculture and natural resources program includes not only agricultural science, but also natural sciences, environmental science, forestry, landscape design and horticulture.
As to the relevance of the program, Mosby said, the burgeoning green industry has opened up many career paths requiring a background in agriculture and natural science. For example, he said, students who study landscape design and environmental science would have a good start on getting the background necessary to work in environmentally friendly construction such as that promoted by Kitsap Homebuilder’s Association’s Built Green program.
The school district, WSU Kitsap County Cooperative Extension, and Olympic College are working on an arrangement that would allow high school students to receive community college credit for agriculture classes, which in turn could be used toward a four-year degree.

Arno Bergstorm of WSU Extension also weighed in on the relevance of agriculture classes classes. “There is a huge horticulture and green industry here in Kitsap,” he said. “There are jobs out there.”
Bergstrom also noted the relevance of agricultural science, given the increasing cost of fuel to transport food from its source to the consumer. While corporate grocery stores still command 97 percent of the market, the “eat local” movement has at least a toe-hold in Kitsap County, Bergstrom said. Bergstrom teaches a class on making small farming economically viable, and it’s his hope that “eating local” will someday move from the fringes to the mainstream of Kitsap County consumerism.

Howe Farm: Time to Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?

On March 24, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will hear public comment on a proposed joint use agreement to allow South Kitsap School District students and the community to conduct agricultural activities at Howe Farm county park. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the county administration building, 614 Division St., Port Orchard.

A story on the proposal will run Saturday.

The county has been negotiating with representatives of the district’s agriculture and natural sciences program. More than 350 students are enrolled in the program, which prepares them for career paths in the burgeoning green industry, said Thomas Mosby, director of career and technical education at South Kitsap High School. The high school has a two-acre farm on its premises. Having access to Howe Farm will allow for expansion of the program with the possibility of adding coursework for college credit.

The county is also working on agreements with WSU Kitsap County Extension, which plans to use the farm for public education classes, demonstration gardens and a community pea patch. Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. is a third group that will play a formal role at the 83-acre park, where an off-leash area was opened earlier this year.

The three entities and the county have worked for more than a year on a joint use agreement to accommodate multiple recreational and educational uses at the park. Leaders of the respective groups say they are eager to cooperate with one another. They are also hesitant to stir up past history which – as I understand it, having come to this beat just a little over a year ago – appeared to pit the interests of dog owners against the interests of those who want to wanted to see active agriculture at Howe farm.

Mosby, Arno Bergstom, the director of WSU Kitsap County Extension, and Danny Horovitz of Kitsap Dogs Parks Inc. have all shown a good faith effort to cooperate with one another. Mosby, who like me arrived at the party after the big flap was over, said he is sensitive to past conflicts over the fate of Howe Farm.
“As a district, we wanted to work to try to quell some of those anxieties and bring us all together to the table to work toward our goals,” Mosby said.

But, at least in some quarters, anxiety remains extant.

Scott Hall worked on the original Howe Farm stewardship committee before it disbanded. Hall is passionate about preserving farm land in Kitsap County. It’s his opinion that the district and WSU are getting shortchanged because the dog park is located on prime agricultural land. Hall, who now serves on the district’s agricultural advisory board, wants the county to conduct a “formal review” of land use at Howe Farm before the district and WSU sign on the dotted line.

Mosby says Hall is entitled to his opinion but does not speak for the district.

Today I spoke with Don Martin, who has served on the county’s Parks Advisory Board for the past three years and who was an interested observer during the height of the controversy over dogs at Howe Farm. In his personal opinion, it would be a mistake to dedicate Howe farm, or any other county park for that matter, exclusively to one use or another. “All of our parks are multi-use,” said Martin. “They were purchased as multi-use and we’ve got to maintain them as multi-use.” That, said Martin (in his opinion), will require building on the cooperative foundation that has been laid by the various entities interested in Howe Farm. “We’ve got everybody working together right now, we shouldn’t go backwards.”

Off-Leash Areas: Howe Farm Ready for Action, SK Park a Possibility

Dogs owners have been out in force taking advantage of newly renovated off-leash areas at Howe Farm County Park.

Danny Horovitz of Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. said completion of the project, along with an expanded parking lot and single-stall rest room, is cause to celebrate.

“We’re real excited to have it open,” said Horovitz. “A lot of people want this. A lot of people are using it.”

A ribbon-cutting is planned for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Kitsap Dog Parks and South Kitsap School District are negotiating with the county on an agreement that would allow both entities to play a role in Howe Farm’s use. The school district, with WSU Kitsap County Cooperative Extension, would like to use part of the land for agricultural and vocational classes. Dogs Parks Inc. would like to develop trails for dog owners.

Horovitz said his organization and the district are ready and willing to cooperate.
“There’s excitement for both groups to be working together,” he said.

While the news at Howe Farm is upbeat, some dog owners have complained to the county about stepped up enforcement of leash laws at South Kitsap Community Park, according to Dori Leckner, senior parks maintenance supervisor.

The county took over the park this summer, and dog owners who have been used to letting their dogs run free are finding posted leash laws enforced by county personnel. Signs at the park notify them of the availability of Howe Farm and Bandix Dog Park, also in South Kitsap.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said the idea of having an off-leash area at SK Park is “not off the table.” Nearly a dozen special interest groups representing various sports and recreational pursuits are working with the county on future development of the park.

Anyone interested in having an off-leash area at SK Park should contact Arvilla Ohlde at (360) 337-5361.

If you are a dog owner, what are your thoughts on off-leash opportunities in Kitsap County?

Howe Farm: Parking Lot Work to Begin Soon

Long-awaited improvements to Howe Farm, a county park in South Kitsap, will begin in early August. The park will be closed for up to three months during renovations.
Kitsap County commissioners on Monday gave final approval for spending $327,972 in capital facilities funds on paving and expanding the parking lot, building a single-stall restroom and finishing a fence around the dog off-leash area.
“This is the first step in the development of this park,” said Brian Lyman, project manager for the county’s Department of Facilities, Parks and Recreation.
The improvements are part of a master plan for the 83-acre park developed with public input, South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said. The money was authorized two years ago as part of the county’s parks improvement plan.
Despite the county’s budget woes, spending on projects like this is seen as cost-effective because they won’t require a lot of maintenance, Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said.
County officials are negotiating with three groups on use of the park. The South Kitsap School District hopes to use part of the land as an open-air learning lab for its agriculture students. The WSU Kitsap County Extension wants to hold gardening and other horticulture classes there, and Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. would like to develop trails for dog owners.
County commissioners in March endorsed the proposed partnerships. A public hearing will be part of the commissioners’ discussion of the proposal, said Lyman, who could not say when it would be placed on the agenda.
The school district has extensive plans for gardens and livestock areas that, along with extension gardens, would essentially transform the park into a working farm. Angel emphasized that public input would take place before any plans proceed.
“Obviously it’s a hot potato for the neighborhood, whether there are farm animals there,” she said. “I think there are things that could work well there and things that would not work so well.”
New North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer, the former Bellevue city manager, cited a similar project there. He said he was enthusiastic about the proposal for Howe Farm.
“At the risk of getting lots of phone calls and e-mail I don’t want, I’ll say I’m really excited about something like this. … It was wonderful seeing kids in this day and age getting up close with a farm animal.”
The dog park is another hot potato. With the fencing incomplete, some dog owners have been using areas outside the designated off-leash zone, a practice not endorsed by Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. Some people, dog owners among them, have objected to proposed plans for the park, saying the area should be left au natural.
Once the fencing is complete, Lyman said the it will be easier to keep dog owners in the off-leash zone.

Commissioners Endorse Groups’ Use of Howe Farm

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to three groups who want to collaborate on their activities at Howe Farm.
South Kitsap School District hopes to use the 83-acre county park as an open air learning lab for its agriculture students. WSU Kitsap County Extension wants to hold gardening and other horticulture classes there, and Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. would like to develop trails and an off-leash area for dog owners.
All three commissioners seemed to favor the proposal, and they instructed representatives of the groups to continue working toward an agreement that can later be cemented with a resolution of the board.

Continue reading

Howe Now Howe Farm?

The Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Wednesday voted to recommend a proposal from South Kitsap School District and WSU Kitsap County Extension for agricultural projects at Howe Farm that would be open to both students and the public. The decision passed unanimously despite protests from people at the meeting at Givens Community Center who said the 83-acre county park in South Kitsap should be left as it is.

Continue reading