Time’s running out to comment on Olympic National Park fee hikes

Less than two weeks remain to comment on Olympic National Park’s proposal to substantially increase fees next year.

Here’s a graph showing the current fees compared to the park’s proposed hikes:

In today’s paper, I wrote about the reluctant support various park advocacy groups are giving to the fee increases at Olympic and dozens of other national parks. They worry higher entrance fees will be a barrier for those on tight budgets and that park visitation could fall. But with the federal government stripping away national park funding, there’s little choice but to put more of the cost of running parks on visitors, park advocates say.

To comment on the increases, head over here.

Outdoor groups oppose photo and filming restrictions

Photo: Mij Revio/Flickr
Photo: Mij Revio/Flickr

A coalition of outdoor recreation groups are joining the protest against U.S. Forest Service limits on commercial filming and photography in wilderness areas.

American Whitewater, the Mountaineers, the International Mountain Bicycling Association and other organizations (together known as the Outdoor Alliance) wrote a letter to the Forest Service urging it to reconsider its policy of requiring permits and charging fees to film or photograph in places like Olympic National Forest.

While Forest Service officials have said the rules are aimed at curbing intrusive, large-scale filming operations in wilderness areas, the Outdoor Alliance argues that much of the filming is done with small devices.

“Of even greater significance than changes in the technology for image capture are changes in the landscape for dissemination and, in some cases, monetization of those images,” the letter states. “Today, an outdoor recreationist or adventure sports athlete might shoot a short video and post it to a blog containing advertising or through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, potentially “tagging” sponsors who provide him or her with equipment or a small income. Athletes engaged in this type of activity are often incredibly prolific, posting videos as often as daily and creating no greater impact to the landscape than another user who chooses not to engage in filming.”

These films and photos “carry a message ‘about the use and enjoyment of wilderness’ in that they show fun, healthy opportunities for outdoor recreation in a pristine landscape. They help generate enthusiasm about outdoor recreation…”

The Forest Service recently announced it would back away from a policy requiring journalists to buy permits and pay fees for filming and photography.

You can read the Outdoor Alliance’s letter below.
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Did the county get a good price for Place of the Bear?


A few readers have asked just how good a deal Kitsap County got when it decided last week to sell the 220-acre parkland known as Place of the Bear to the Suquamish Tribe.

The $1.475 million price struck some as suspiciously low for such a large property.

But, in checking the county’s property records, I found that the assessed value of the two parcels that make up Place of the Bear amount to $1.218. That’s more than $200,000 below the final price.


Interestingly, the property’s value plunged just before the county and tribe began serious negotiations last year. In 2012, the largest chuck of Place of the Bear – about 218 acres – was a whopping $3.130 million. A year later, the value had been cut in half, down to .

Seems strange, right? But the dramatic reduction in value was fairly widespread in North Kitsap during that same period, according to the county assessor’s office.

A large section of North Kitsap Heritage Park, for instance, went from an assessed value of $1.45 million in 2012 down to to $1.372 million in 2013 and then plunged to 660,000 this year.

Similar parklands south of Poulsbo held their value better. The undeveloped county parkland known as Erlands Point in Chico lost only about $15,000 of its value between 2012 and 2013. A large section of Anderson Point Park near Olalla actually went up in value, moving from $532,000 in 2012 to its current value of $547,000.

Private and tribe-owned properties in the Suquamish area also fell in value. A large private property adjacent to Place of the Bear dropped from $631,000 to $356,000 between 2012 and 2013.

Smaller parcels didn’t fall quite as much as larger ones. The assessor’s staff explained that’s because larger properties in unincorporated residential areas are typically less desirable for buyers – most of whom want a manageable lot of a few acres.

The big plunge between 2012 to 2013 appears to be a corrective measure for what was judged to be inflated values in North Kitsap.

So, overall, it seems the county got about what the property was worth.

For more about Place of the Bear and the controversy surrounding its sale, head over here.

And go here for a story about last week’s decision to sell it.

Outdoor magazine’s winter edition out Friday


The winter edition of the Kitsap Sun’s West Sound Guide to the Outdoors hits the stands on Friday – just in time for your post-Turkey Day recovery.

We’ve already put two of the stories online. Check out my story about the future of wilderness preservation on the Olympic Peninsula here, and click here for my profile of Jeff Ozimek, the engine behind Bainbridge parks’ outdoors program, which has grown so fast and offers so many programs that its getting national notice.

Here are a few other items you’ll find in the magazine:

  • Seabury “Mr. Outdoors” Blair looks into the grassroots effort to have Hurricane Ridge open more days during the winter.
  • A guide to the area’s polar bear plunges.
  • Smart phone apps for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • The whys and hows of indoor rock climbing in Kitsap.

Each edition of the Sun will have a copy of the magazine inside.

The winter edition is the fifth outdoor magazine we’ve put out since our launch in 2013. It’s been a fun experiment producing a quarterly magazine, but from here on out  we’ll be doing it just once a year.  Look for our next West Sound Guide to the Outdoors next fall.


Details for visiting Hurricane Ridge this winter

Hurricane Ridge’s winter season is nearly upon us. Read on for Olympic National Park’s update on road conditions, hours of operation and winter recreation opportunities on the ridge.


Cross-country skiing at Hurricane Ridge. By Seabury Blair.
Cross-country skiing at Hurricane Ridge. By Seabury Blair.

Winter Plowing Season Begins This Weekend at Hurricane Ridge, Additional Services to Begin in December

With the shift in seasons, and much of the autumn road maintenance work completed, members of the Olympic National Park road crew are transitioning this week to winter plowing operations on the Hurricane Ridge Road.

“After an active fall repairing potholes, clearing culverts and preparing for winter storms, it’s time to focus on snow removal and providing weekend access to Hurricane Ridge,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.

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Don’t shop on Thanksgiving. Ride your bike.


The West Sound branch of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance wants you to pledge NOT to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

Instead, hop on your bike and hit the trails.

The number of stores promoting Thanksgiving Day deals has grown. Walmart has declared it “The New Black Friday.”  This added day of door-buster deals has also sparked a backlash. Boycotts are in the works and some retailers are promising to stay closed to give their employees a much-deserved break with friends and family.

Evergreen’s pledge notes that “if I’m shopping, someone else is working and not spending time with their bike.  Everyone deserves to go mountain biking.”

In the spirit of giving thanks (for bikes, for trails, for large wooded expanses open to the public), Silverdale Cyclery is organizing a Thanksgiving morning ride near Port Gamble. They’ll have demo bikes on hand so you can see how a new pair of wheels feels on the trail. The ride starts at 10 a.m. at the Stottlemeyer Trailhead. More info can be found here. 

Forest Service backs off photo fee for press

In this 2013 photo from Oregon Public Broadcasting, photographer Andy Maser, right, photographs cavers in the Mount Hood Wilderness area in Oregon for an episode of "Oregon Field Guide."
In this Oregon Public Broadcasting photo, journalist Andy Maser, right, photographs cavers in the Mount Hood Wilderness for an episode of “Oregon Field Guide.” Courtesy Associated Press.

The U.S. Forest Service is reversing its controversial policy of requiring the press to buy permits to film or take photos in wilderness areas.

The Forest Service had planned to make the temporary policy permanent. A swift storm of outrage from journalists, free-press advocates and politicians forced Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell to rethink this position.

In his Nov. 4 memo, Tidwell stresses that “news coverage in NFS lands is protected by the Constitution, and it is our responsibility to safeguard this right on the lands we manage for all Americans.”

Olympic National Forest, 2013. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun
Olympic National Forest, 2013. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

The policy was inconsistently applied. In the nearly two years I’ve covered Olympic National Forest, permits have never come up.

But, as the Seattle Times showed in a recent story, the policy has led to incidents in which journalists were denied access or made to wait weeks for permission to film or take photos. In some cases, they were and required to buy liability insurance and were asked to pay fees ranging from $200 to $1,500.

Despite Tidwell’s assurances that the press is exempt from filming and photography restrictions, it might take a while before all Forest Service employees are clear on the rules. The old rules are still featured in Forest Service websites, including this one.

You can read Tidwell’s full memo below.

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Bainbridge ski swap is this weekend


Need a snowboard or pair of ski boots before the snow hits? Don’t mind if it’s gently used? Like low prices? Like supporting local parks?

I thought so. This weekend is the Bainbridge park district’s annual ski swap at Waterfront Park community center (370 Brien Dr.) in downtown Winslow. It’s a good place to find all kinds of winter gear – snowshoes, ski poles, bindings, coats, mittens, maybe a tuque or two.

The money raised helps support the district’s ski bus, which was able to get more than 70 kids and 24 adults up to the slopes last year.

Saturday evening or dark and early on Sunday (starting at 6:30 a.m.) is when you can drop off gear for the sale. The sale begins at 10 a.m.

Get all the rest of the details below.

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Poulsbo’s beer boys take it all off for Kitsap trails


How much do the brewers and drinkers at Poulsbo’s Slippery Pig Brewery love their local trails?

Enough to take it all off and get into some pretty brave poses for all to see. The brewery has produced a pinup style calendar that benefits the North Kitsap Trails Association. Above is December’s photo – a group pose featuring all the “centerfolds.”

Read more about the calendar here.

Head down below for more sneak-peak photos from the calendar. Who says beer doesn’t do a body good?

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Salmon watching at Rhododendron Preserve

Screenshot 2014-11-10 16.46.49

Not far from Kitsap Forest Theater‘s stage are three creeks that are teeming with salmon right now.

The returning salmon put on quite a show for the dozens of people who toured the property on Saturday. Kids cheered while the salmon thrashed upstream past fish-sized rapids, logs, rocks and the bodies of salmon that either spawned out or died trying.

The 380 wooded acres around the theater is known as Rhododendron Preserve. Its owner, the Mountaineers Foundation, is making the preserve more welcoming to the public. The foundation has posted signs at the half-mile trail, which dips into a valley and runs along Wildcat and Chico creeks. The preserve is also being put to use as an “outdoor classroom,” with lessons on salmon and forest ecology.

For more about the preserve and its future, read this.


Photos: Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun