Trails & Tides

Tristan Baurick, the Kitsap Sun's outdoors and public lands reporter, writes about hiking, biking, kayaking and everything else Kitsapers do under the sun.
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Adventures in press restrictions in the Olympic wilderness

September 17th, 2014 by tristan baurick

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When I set out to cover the effort to save Olympic National Park’s Enchanted Valley Chalet last week, I thought the toughest part would be the 13-mile hike. 

Worse, I found after six hours on the trail, was a bizarre blockade on press freedom – the likes of which I’d never experienced outside a military base or murder scene. 

The scene I found at the end of the hike was anything but. The moving crew, made up of preservationists, house movers, two cooks and a pack animal driver,  were happy to see I’d come all the way to their wilderness worksite. Miles from the nearest road and with limited tools and equipment at their disposal, the movers were accomplishing the herculean task of pushing a three-story log structure away from the river that had undercut its foundation by eight feet. 

The chalet after the first push.

The chalet after the first push.

It had the makings of a great story. Strangely enough, it was a story the park service wanted told through one person – Rainey McKenna, a spokeswoman sent from park HQ to handle the likes of me. 

Her first rule: no crossing a yellow caution tape stretched over a vast area several times larger than the chalet. The reason was safety, and yet she and the cook crew moved about freely. In fact, the cook crew was busy frying up dinner in the restricted area, about 40 feet from the chalet when she insisted full collapse could happen any time. Could I stand by the cooks, I asked. No, she answered. How’s about when all the work’s done? No. What if the project’s boss accompanies me? No. What if I put on a hard hat and safety vest and you accompany me? No. 

This did not bode well for the multimedia coverage I had planned. Packing light, I left my camera’s zoom lens at home and was relying on my smart phone for video (also no zoom).

More than one mover offered to take my phone and get some close-up footage. Nope, that would also not be allowed, McKenna said. 

I wandered over to a mover petting the pack animals outside the yellow tape. As I snapped photos, we chit-chatted about horses. McKenna interrupted, telling me the press wasn’t allowed to speak with anyone associated with the project. 

About to get busted for talking to a man about a horse.

About to get busted for talking to a man about a horse.

I was dumbfounded. I asked her to repeat herself. 

“You’re in a restricted area,” she explained. 

“But we’re just talking about horses, and we’re outside the tape,” I said. “Did the restricted area just grow?”

No, she said, indicating there was a much larger, unmarked restricted area that limited not just access but speech. 

The next morning was to be the official “media day” – the designated time in which newspapers and TV stations could witness the culmination of what had become a story of regional interest. Everyone from the Oregonian to KING 5 have given ink or airtime to the moving project.  

Our invitation mentioned only two restrictions on the press: No drones. No helicopters. I dutifully complied with both. I also sent two emails to the park’s public affairs office to discuss logistics for shooting video and photos. I never heard back on either. 

McKenna said the Seattle Times and a few Seattle TV stations had expressed serious interest in attending. Usually, I don’t like competition, but I looked forward to their presence. Blocking access to one reporter is certainly easier than blocking it from several. 

But I didn’t have to wait until morning to get the interviews I sought. The interviews came to me. The crew, I found, was more than willing to talk – so long as it was out of view of McKenna and the two other park staffers at the site. I spoke with them in hidden groves, shady spots along the river and on the trail, far from the worksite. 

Read the rest of this entry »


Volunteers needed for Kitsap parks board

August 11th, 2014 by tristan baurick

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The Kitsap County Parks Advisory Board is looking for a few new members.

The 12-member board helps the county parks department craft policies, make decisions on land acquisitions and contributes on special projects. Members also serve as liaisons between the department and the public.

Two seats are up for grabs with the recent resignations of Ed Donahue, who helped represent South Kitsap, and Michael Arnold, one of the Central Kitsap reps.

At last check, only three applications have been received for the two positions.

New appointees would serve out the former members’ terms. Donahue’s term ends at the end of this year, and Arnold’s concludes at the end of 2015. Once a term is complete, a member could be re-appointed for a full three-year term.

The board’s membership is evenly divided between three geographic areas: North, Central and South Kitsap. Applicants must be residents of either the South or Central Kitsap districts and attend monthly meetings.

Parks Director Jim Dunwiddie said the new members will be involved in important work, including…

1. Categorizing the county’s dozens of parks and then helping to develop related policies for the various park types (such as forest parks, sports parks, etc.)

2. Developing new funding sources for parks, including possible use fees.

3. Developing plans and policies for new parks and soon-to-be-acquired parks, including the large Port Gamble Shoreline Block property that was purchased in April.

The application deadline is Aug. 15.

For more info and an application, head over here.

Photo: Kingston’s Kola Kole Park is one of the dozens of properties managed by the Kitsap County Parks Department. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun


State Fish & Wildlife director stepping down

August 11th, 2014 by tristan baurick

AndersonThe state Fish & Wildlife director will resign at the end of the year.

Phil Anderson worked for the department for more than 20 years and led it for the last six.

He steered the department through some tough times. Recent budget cuts reduced Fish & Wildlife funding by about 45 percent.

Below is an announcement from the department.

Read the rest of this entry »


Poulsbo’s Rude Road property: A ‘surplus’ park no more?

August 11th, 2014 by tristan baurick

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Last year, a wooded property off Rude Rude in Poulsbo made the Kitsap County Parks Department’s list of parklands it no longer wanted. Now it looks like the department may hang on to it after all.

Hidden away on Little Rude Road, a narrow, winding driveway branching from Rude, the property – known simply as ‘Rude Road’ – had little potential as a public park. It had a lot of trees but little else going for it. No one at the department was quite sure how they came to own it, what it had ever been used for or where exactly it was. Parks officials initially told me it was 9 acres, but a bit of research last week revealed it to be more than two times that size.

RudeRoadMap

The department’s hope for its ‘surplus’ properties is for other government agencies or nonprofits to take them on. The department prefers not to sell them on the open market.

Conveniently, the state Department of Natural Resources owns 186 acres of timberland bordering Rude Road property. DNR’s been logging it for decades. The last cut was recent, leaving much of the property covered in stumps and Scotch broom.

Might DNR be interested in another 19 acres, fully-stocked with mature trees, the department asked.

No, actually, DNR said. Then DNR countered with a surprise offer: Take our 186 acres instead. And don’t give us any money.

“The county likes a really good deal, and this is one,” said Eric Baker, the county’s special projects manager.

Combined, the two properties could give the department a new park that tops 205 acres.

The deal’s not done, but it’s safe to say the Rude Road property is no longer on the surplus list.

Read more about the property and its future here. 

Photo: The Kitsap County Parks Department owns 19 acres of wooded land bisected by Little Rude Road. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun


A reminder to steer clear of mountain goats

August 8th, 2014 by tristan baurick

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Olympic National Park is reminding visitors to stay away from the park’s mountain goats.

The park sent out the following notice:

Visitors to Olympic National Park are reminded they are required to keep their distance from all park wildlife and observe animals only from a vantage point of at least 50 yards.

“Wild animals – even those that seem ‘tame’ – can pose potential hazards to people, whether through the spread of disease or through direct physical contact,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.  “Visitors should always maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from any park wildlife.”

Although rare, attacks on humans have occurred in National Parks, inflicting serious injuries and death. A visitor was fatally gored by a mountain goat while hiking in Olympic National Park in 2010.

Park regulations state that all visitors must maintain a distance of at least 50 yards, or half the length of a football field between themselves and any park wildlife.  If any animal approaches closer than 50 yards, visitors are required to move away to maintain the minimum distance.

Read the rest of this entry »


Wildfire near Lake Crescent halted

August 6th, 2014 by tristan baurick

The small wildfire near Lake Crescent is 100 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service announced this morning.

Known as the Pyramid Fire, the blaze north of Lake Crescent burned about 1.5 acres before it was halted by forest service and state Department of Natural Resources fire crews.

Crews are now in the “mop up” stage, extinguishing burning material around the control line cut around the fire site. They expect to finish the process by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

The fire is believed to have been human-caused due to a lack of lightning – the main source of ignition for natural-caused fires. The exact cause has not been determined.

The forest service urged all visitors to the Olympic national forest and national park to be “extremely careful with fire and other potential sources of ignition.” About 95 percent of wildfires in Olympic National Forest are human-caused, according to the forest service.


Twanoh State Park added to state historic register

August 6th, 2014 by tristan baurick

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Twanoh State Park‘s collection of sturdy Civilian Conservation Corps-built structures has earned it designation on the state register of historic places.

The park’s 23 buildings and other structures are an “outstanding assemblage of buildings” designed and built in an architectural style common in state and national parks during the 1930s, according to Stephen Emerson, program director of Eastern Washington University’s Architectural and Historical Services.

Twanoh on Map

Emerson’s nomination of Twanoh to the Washington Heritage Register was accepted in late June. The park will be considered for inclusion on the national register in the early fall.

Twanoh was established as a state park in 1922, likely making it the oldest state park in an area that includes Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties, according to state parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter.

Most of its structures were built by young men employed by the CCC, a Depression-era government program aimed at creating jobs, stimulating the economy and constructing public-use infrastructure.

The buildings were designed in the “National Park Service Rustic” style, which “stressed naturalistic settings and buildings that featured natural materials, especially masonry and wood, usually using locally quarried stone and logs from nearby forests,” Emerson wrote.


Small wildfire sparked near Lake Crescent

August 5th, 2014 by tristan baurick

The U.S. Forest Service is urging people to be mindful of fires after a human-caused fire burned more than an acre near Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula.

Here’s the Forest Service press release:

An interagency team is working to contain a small, human-caused wildfire north of Crescent Lake that is burning on state and Forest Service lands. The Pyramid Fire is just over one acre in size and is about 60 percent contained.

As warm and dry conditions continue around the Olympic Peninsula and western Washington, fire managers urge forest users to be cautious with fire and be aware of possible sources of ignition. About 95 percent of wildfires on the Olympic National Forest (ONF) are human-caused, often the inadvertent result of improperly extinguished campfires and tossed cigarette butts.

“With the dry conditions we have right now,” said Rita Chandler, ONF fire staff officer, “All it takes is one spark to get things started in the cured grasses out there. In order to keep forest visitors and firefighters safe, we all need to be extra careful.”

Forest users who are found to have started a wildfire, even accidentally, may be held responsible for the costs of suppression.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group in Boise, Idaho, raised the national wildfire preparedness level to 4 on Sunday. Preparedness levels range from 1 to 5 (5 being the highest) and indicate the national level of wildfire activity, severity, and firefighting resource commitments. They also guide preparedness activities to ensure appropriate readiness as new situations arise. The preparedness level was elevated from 3 to 4 due to active and increasing fire activity in the Northwest, California, and Great Basin, and an August forecast predicting above normal fire activity in these same areas.


Governor declares Aug. 2 “Washington Trails Day”

July 28th, 2014 by tristan baurick

GibbonsTrail

WTD

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a proclamation recognizing Aug. 2 as Washington Trails Day. It’s the second year in a row the governor has made the proclamation.

“In Washington, we understand the importance of outdoor recreation to our quality of life and the strength of our economy,” he said in a statement. “That’s why I am committed to protecting our public lands and enhancing the recreation opportunities that Washingtonians love.”

The proclamation singled out the contributions made by the Washington Trails Association. It’s 3,400 volunteers contribute more than 100,000 hours per year building and maintaining trails in the state’s national forests, national parks and state parks.

The WTA suggested that people mark Washington Trails Day by taking a “hiking holiday.”

WTA staff will be wandering trails around the state on Aug. 2. Sporting the WTA logo could earn you a prize.

To mark the occasion on social media, the WTA is encouraging hikers to snap photos of fellow hikers high-fiving on the trail. Post the pic with #highfivewashingtontrails.

Photo: WTA volunteer trail worker Frank Gibbons of Poulsbo crosses a bridge on the Lena Lake Trail in Olympic National Forest last week. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun


Sewer spill closes Manchester waterfront for weekend

July 24th, 2014 by tristan baurick

Pomeroy

Manchester Map

Kitsap Public Health District today closed the Manchester waterfront to swimming and other water recreation due to a sewage spill.

The closure impacts Pomeroy Park and Manchester’s public dock through the weekend.

A Kitsap County-managed sewer line at the end of East Daniels Loop was found to have spilled between 15,000 and 20,000 of sewage before the problem was corrected.

Warning signs have been posted in the area and at Pomeroy, a park managed by the Port of Manchester.

Shellfish harvesting is already closed in the area.

According to the state Department of Ecology, contact with fecal-contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Photo: Pomeroy Park in Manchester. Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun


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