SK Regional Park now a shell of its former self | Guest column

It is sad that so many of our beautiful trees in South Kitsap Regional Park had been diagnosed with “root rot.” The resulting removal of these trees by the county under the direction of Jim Dunwiddie, director of Kitsap County Parks and Recreation, resulted in a destruction of a beautiful refuge for our community.

That the county would proceed with this project using a contractor to harvest the trees (who paid the county $200,000) and leaving all the stumps and debris to remain is shocking. In addition to South Kitsap Regional Park, this issue extends to the small community park property east of the Bill Bloomquist Rotary Park.

The logging company cut the trees, left the same mess and blocked the drainage ditch that drains the Parkwood community. I know about the drainage problem because my husband spent in excess of 20 volunteer hours removing limbs, debris and large log pieces from the drainage ditches to restore the drainage flow.

In a July 17, 2017, Port Orchard Independent article, Mr. Dunwiddie states that the trees were a hazard “and we have hundreds, if not thousands, of people walking through the park on a daily basis. We need to remove that hazard (of trees falling over from rot).”

Well, there is no need to worry about those “hundreds, if not thousands, of people walking through the park on a daily basis” anymore. The park has been destroyed with massive piles of limbs, debris, stumps and torn-up ground from the contractor’s heavy machinery. With all the limbs and debris, it is now a huge fire hazard and an inaccessible ugly mess. There is no way people can walk through it now.

Why was the county’s agreement with the contractor only for the cutting of the trees and excluding the clean-up process? The logger did the easy job, leaving the real work undone. Seattle Parks Department would never leave a park in this condition. Why should Port Orchard be different?

Mr. Dunwiddie, you have destroyed a popular, beautiful park that had potential to become increasingly enjoyable as the county was to invest the $2 million it promised when they took ownership a few years ago.

Why would you think volunteers would be able to take on such a massive project to clean up this mess?

There is a county no-burning law. What is a volunteer supposed to do with the limbs and debris? How would a volunteer pull out the rot-infested roots and stumps?

This is a job for a logging company with the equipment and bonding to handle such a large project. The stumps need to be extracted, limbs and debris removed, the devastation to the land smoothed and the trails restored to its natural beauty.

This park will never be like it was before the logging because so many large, beautiful trees and the landscape are gone forever. But all we can do now is address the resulting mess.

Why was the logging contractor allowed to leave this mess and walk away with just a $200,000 payment to the county for all the many loads of timber?

Were the logging and monetary value of the lumber put out for bids? Why wasn’t the cleanup included in the contract?

Why are you now not dedicating the $200,000 and the $2 million in the park’s coffers for the cleanup? The funds are there. Do the right thing for our community. The county is being negligent to citizens by not doing everything in its power to restore this park. Tree planting should come later when the ground is prepared.

Mr. Dunwiddie stated that there was outreach to notify the public of this logging. But the plan was cited only at Parks and Recreation board meetings and postings at the park. There was nothing in the local papers. This was not a full disclosure outreach if it was only applied to those two venues. Adequate notification did not happen.

It may have been necessary to address the root rot issue. But there are less destructive options: taking trees down as they die to reduce the possibility of becoming a falling hazard (as we do on our own small forested acreage). Yet after all this live tree removal, you left trees standing that have been dead for years (one of them right near the park entrance on Lund Avenue, near the paved walking trail used by many, and one at the child-intensive skate park). Those are the real falling hazards, yet they remain standing!

Reforestation was mentioned in the Port Orchard Independent as being part of the county plan. But before you reforest, you need to complete the job you started.

Part of cutting down a tree is cleaning up the mess. Cutting the tree is just the first and easiest part of the job. The park is now a fire hazard and inaccessible to the public.

Volunteers do have a role in maintaining a park. And perhaps volunteers will be able to help the county build and maintain new trails after you clean up your mess.

Joanne Peterson is a resident of Port Orchard and frequent South Kitsap Regional Park user.