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

Kitsap’s water trail is looking for a logo

Water Trail Logo

The first big meeting of the newly-designated Kitsap Peninsula National Water Trail was held yesterday. Much of the discussion between trail advocates, county leaders and tourism promoters focused on the need to get some signs up to show off the trail’s nearly 80 stops along Kitsap’s shoreline.

But first, the trail needs a defining look, a logo that, at a glance, lets you know you’re at a spot where you can put your kayak, canoe or paddle board in the water, take a break from paddling or, at a few select sites, set up your tent for the night.

The North Kitsap Trails Association has taken the lead on the signage front, thanks to a grant from REI. They have enough money to design and install signs at about 20 trail stops, all of which would be in North Kitsap.

REI likes to see their money put to use quickly, so the NKTA is in a bit of a time crunch. Above, you can see the logo design they’d like to start putting on signs this spring. It hasn’t been formally approved by the larger Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails Alliance, but they’re not opposed to it. The final Kitsap water trail logo would have ‘national’ in its title.

So, what do you think of the logo? Cast your vote in the poll to the right.

For comparison, here are a few logos from some of the 15 other national water trails. Their logos appear to be in transition as well, and have yet to insert ‘national’ into their titles.

Screenshot 2014-11-07 12.51.59

For more about the meeting, look for my story this weekend.

Bainbridge re-states leash policy, angers dog owners


Bainbridge park officials have been scratching their heads over how to get dog owners to comply with leash rules for about as long as the rules have been on the books.

Since 1972, the district has required any dog in district-managed property to be on a leash. The rule is routinely ignored. At some parks, it’s far more common to see free-roaming dogs than ones under the control of a leash.

The district has tried posting more signs and public education campaigns. Two years ago, the district gave serious consideration to enforcement, but the idea of animal control officers handing out citations seemed heavy-handed. Instead, the district focused its efforts on developing the island’s second off-leash park. It opened at Strawberry Hill Park in late July.


Late last month, the district tried a new tactic: it issued a statement reiterating its long-established rules. As innocuous as that may sound, the statement further soured the district’s relationship with dog owners.

“This is a hugely insulting statement and will set the stage for all further discussions,” wrote Becca Hanson, a dog owner who has served on district dog policy committees, in an email. “The (park district) needs to know that they are accountable to ALL citizens on this island, and that there are different ways of solving things than the courses they are currently choosing.”

The district’s statement notes that off-leash dogs harm wildlife, and have attacked park users, park staff and other dogs. Unleashed dogs cause fear and often startle other park users, and the owners of off-leash dogs are less-likely to clean up their dogs’ poop, according to the statement.

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A new spot to take in the Elwha’s rebirth

The Elwha River flows the old Glines Canyon Dam in June. The dam has since been removed. Elaine Thompson/Associated Press.
The Elwha River flows by the old Glines Canyon Dam in June. The dam has since been removed, and a new viewing area has been established by Olympic National Park. Elaine Thompson/Associated Press.

Olympic National Park has opened a new public viewpoint for taking in the rapidly transforming Elwha River.

With both of its dams now gone, the river is once again running free. The landscape is changing and salmon are already pushing deep into areas that were blocked for decades.

The new viewpoint, which opened on Friday, is perched above the former site of the Glines Canyon Dam. The view includes the dam site and a landscape that was, until recently, a lake.

New Elwha River Glines Canyon viewpoint.
New Elwha River Glines Canyon viewpoint.

A new quarter-mile trail leads from the parking area to the former lakebed. The trail has metal walkways to help hikers avoid the lakebed’s fine, boot-sucking mud.

Hikers were also cautioned to avoid stepping in restored areas were plants are slowly taking hold.

The Olympic Hot Springs Road remains closed to all entry at the gate just above Altair Campground. Crews are repairing the road and anticipate re-opening it to the Boulder Creek Trailhead by the end of November.

The Glines Canyon parking area and former boat launch will remain closed while crews make safety and visitor access improvements.

For more information about the Elwha River restoration, head over here:

Washington’s Recreation and Conservation Office turns 50

A volunteer tree planter walks thought the Port Gamble Shoreline Block property in April. By Meegan Reid/Kitsap Sun
A volunteer tree planter walks thought the Port Gamble Shoreline Block property in April. By Meegan Reid/Kitsap Sun

Never heard of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office? Well, chances are you’ve hiked a trail, played in a park or enjoyed a public beach made possible with RCO funding.


The RCO celebrated its 50th year with little fanfare today.

Since 1964, the RCO has grown from a small agency administering three grant programs to one that handles 15 grant programs, five boards and offices, and the fourth-largest capital budget of any state agency.

Its mandate is fairly broad: create parks, trails and other recreation areas, conserve wildlife habitat and working farms, and bring salmon back from the brink of extinction.

RCO has invested nearly $2 billion in about 8,500 projects around the state.

This year, about $21 million went to Kitsap County to fund more than 30 projects.

Here are a few:

  • The purchase of the Port Gamble Shoreline Block property
  • Point No Point wetland restoration
  • New playground at Bremerton’s Evergreen Park
  • Harper Pier reconstruction
  • Carpenter Creek estuary acquisition
  • Expansion of Gazzam Lake Preserve on Bainbridge

“This kind of investment in Washington’s quality of life is really unique in the nation,” RCO director Kaleen Cottingham said in a statement. “Most other states don’t have a comparable state agency. By consolidating these recreation, conservation and restoration grant programs in one agency, Washington is able to run fair, non-political evaluation processes that ensures the best projects are funded.”

For more about the RCO, head to their website,


Photos from my season of kayak commuting

With the days getting shorter and the weather windier and wetter, it’s time to call a close to this season’s kayak commute.

I started commuting from south Bainbridge Island to the Kitsap Sun’s HQ in Bremerton last summer, and have loved every minute of it. It’s been a great way to see, feel and smell Puget Sound. It’s also much cheaper than driving and I get a good dose of exercise to boot.

I often snap photos along the way and post them to Twitter (hashtag #kayakcommute). See a few of this season’s highlights in the gallery above.

Anderson Point Park could reopen in December


The Kitsap County Parks Department is predicting that work to reopen Anderson Point Park will finish up on Dec. 3.

That’s not necessarily the day the public will be welcomed back into the South Kitsap park, but it does mark the end of a $170,000 project to stabilize Anderson Point’s hillside. The park was closed in 2010 when it appeared that the hillside was dangerously unstable. The trail to the park’s long, sandy beach snakes down the hillside, and portions of it had crumbled away during winter storms.

A report commissioned by the department early this year showed that poor ditch maintenance led to the park’s landslide hazards.


Kingston-based Sealevel Bulkhead Builders is scheduled to begin moving equipment to the site on Oct. 28. Work on drainage improvements will start two days later. Construction of a retaining wall will take about a month, ending around Thanksgiving. Cleanup will happen during the first days of December, according to the project’s schedule.

Not yet worked out is how the parks department and nearby residents will share Millihanna Road, which serves as the only road access to the park. The handful of households on Millihanna threatened legal action against the department if the park is reopened.

See the full schedule below.

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