Access to Kitsap Forest Theater preserved, settlements reached

Settlements regarding the final piece of litigation between the Keta Legacy Foundation and The Mountaineers have been reached outside the courtroom, tentatively ending legal disputes between the two organizations dating back to 2019 and presently preserving the future of the historic Kitsap Forest Theater.

Feb. 16 releases from Keta and The Mountaineers indicated the two organizations agreed to dismiss remaining legal claims against one another, finding common ground on a number of remaining issues.

“After months of negotiations to resolve the final piece of the overall litigation, we are pleased to find a pathway forward that ensures both organizations can focus their time and resources on our missions and align with our board and donor values,” said former Keta president Jeff Wirtz.

Among the agreements reached between the two parties, both will lay to rest the “Mountaineers Foundation” name, the title under which Keta had originated and continuously used even after transitioning to Keta Legacy Foundation. A commonsense, collaborative process to evaluate any donations or bequests made under the retired name has also been established to determine intent of the donors and best determine which organization the gift is intended for.

A joint statement from Wirtz and Mountaineers Board of Directors president Gabe Aeschliman said, “Honoring the wishes of donors is an important shared value of both organizations, and we are committed to working together on this process.”

Agreements were also reached to ensure the continuation of The Mountaineers’ backstage access to the Kitsap Forest Theater, further ensuring the continuation of productions at the historic outdoor amphitheater. Categorized in statements as a “land swap”, it will also allow Keta access to the Big Tree Trail and the salmon habitat of Hidden Valley.

Keta’s statement also includes an agreement on reciprocal easements for electrical upgrades across the organization’s properties.

“Reaching common ground allows us to move forward with our top priorities of protecting the forests and salmon-bearing streams in and around the Rhododendron Preserve and ensuring outdoor access for all through both groups’ activities,” Wirtz said.

“This agreement achieves those goals which we reached in a spirit of compromise and a desire to forge a better working relationship moving forward,” said Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl. “Most important, this agreement allows both organizations to put these issues behind us and allows us each to focus on the important work ahead.”

Both leaders added that the dispute was not how either nonprofit wanted to dedicate its time and energy, but the months-long process of negotiations that began in September of last year created a better understanding of what each organization’s role is.