campaign to expand Illahee Preserve Heritage Park is running
out of time.
Unless about $330,000 is raised in less than two weeks, a
coveted woodland on the preserve’s east edge will become a housing
“We’ve gotten a few $10,000 checks but most of it is $2,500,
$1,000, $100, $20,” said Jim Aho, one of the preserve’s biggest
advocates. “It hasn’t been enough.”
Aho and others have long hoped to preserve the 36-acre property,
known as Timbers Edge, and add it to the 440-acre preserve.
They had pinned their hopes on a $300,000 grant from the
Birkenfeld Trust, but their request was recently turned
“That threw us for a loop,” Aho said.
There’s a slim hope that Kitsap’s representatives in Olympia can
finagle about $300,000 in last-minute state funds. It’s a long
shot, but it’s the only shot they have.
“If the state doesn’t come through, we’re going to fail,” Aho
The full price is $1.7 million, but the owner, a Gig Harbor
resident, has agreed to cut $500,000 from the price if the property
is used for conservation. The fundraising campaign has zeroed in on
25 of the 36 acres as a first phase, but even that more-modest goal
is looking unreachable.
Aho and the other members of the preserve’s stewardship group
have sought corporate sponsors and even solicited donations from
millionaires with local connections.
Some fundraising campaign ideas have fallen flat. They started
calling the property “The Lost Continent,” and created a logo and slick website
around the name, but Aho admits it led to some head scratching.
“We thought that was really catchy but it has been confusing to
some people,” Aho said. “When, instead, we say we’re saving a
forest and salmon stream, people say “yeah, yeah, I’m interested in
Problem is, most of their most enthusiastic backers are young
adults who lack the money to make big donations.
Aho sought advice from a local fundraising campaign manager. Her
advice: Go to Bainbridge Island. That’s where the money is.
Aho didn’t think islanders would care much for a forest on the
outskirts of Bremerton, but he targeted some mailings to the parts
of south Bainbridge that have views of the preserve’s hills. To his
surprise, an islander responded with a $10,000 pledge.
He’s pretty sure he’s seen the extent of Bainbridge’s support.
His last push for donations is focused on East Bremerton and
“Now we’re even going door to door,” he said.
To learn more about the preserve and its planned expansion, head
Top photo: illaheecommunity.com
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