State funds $3 million in Kitsap recreation projects
Jack McCarn was bracing himself for the day he'd pass the 90-year-old Waterman Pier and nothing would be there.
"It looks really bad," said McCarn, a commissioner with the Port of Waterman in South Kitsap. "All it would take is one more winter storm, and there'd be pilings and decking all over the beach."
So it came as a welcome surprise when he learned this week that the replacement of the derelict pier was one of seven Kitsap projects that received a large outdoor recreation grant from the state. The grants, which total $3.13 million, will build trails in North Kitsap and Port Orchard, improve parks in Kingston and Winslow, help build a mountain bike park in Port Gamble and replace Waterman Pier, which was closed about a month ago after portions of its decking broke.
"Hoooo!," McCarn said when a reporter broke the news that $575,00 was headed to the port. "That's going to put us a long ways. Things are looking good."
The largest grant, at $740,000, will be put toward the planned Sound to Olympics Trail in North Kitsap. The 24-mile walking and cycling path will run from Kingston to the Hood Canal bridge and run south through Bainbridge Island to the Winslow ferry terminal.
Kitsap County plans to add nearly $1 million to protect and route large sections of the trail through North Kitsap Heritage Park and other county-owned parklands. The North Kitsap Trails Association and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Association have promised volunteer labor to help build the trail, much of which will be paved.
The $575,000 grant for Waterman Pier ranks second. It will cover a little more than half the cost of replacing the pier, which juts into Sinclair Inlet near Port Orchard and is a popular spot for fishing and squidding. McCarn said another grant and the port's reserve fund will cover the rest. He hopes to begin the permitting process immediately and have the project completed by November. The entire pier will be torn down and its wooden pilings will be replaced by steel pilings. The decking will be made of fiberglass and aluminum.
A $500,000 grant will go to Kitsap County to help purchase 200 acres for the West Sound's first mountain bike park.
The full cost of the Port Gamble property is $1.07 million but the county is confident it will get matching funds from other government grants. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance's West Sound chapter will lead the project's design and construction.
"We've got an army of volunteers ready to build it," said Brian Kilpatrick, the chapter's president.
The park will feature trails with ramps, high-bank turns and other features. It will be patterned after King County's Duthie Hill Park, which has become a regional attraction since it opened just over two years ago.
A $500,000 grant was awarded to the city of Bainbridge Island to replace Waterfront Park's public dock and boat ramp. The ramp and 29-year-old dock are considered too small to meet the needs of Eagle Harbor's visiting boaters and the island's rowing club. The $1.2 million project is part of a larger effort to redevelop the prominent park, which covers a large portion of Winslow's waterfront.
The Port of Kingston was allotted $400,000 to develop a small park near the Kingston ferry terminal. The port will replace the pavement on the .35-acre Washington Boulevard property with a play area, picnic shelter, outdoor musical instruments and a platform that allows views of Puget Sound. The port will contribute a $424,000 match from port reserves and donations.
A $311,000 grant will help the city of Port Orchard design and develop the second phase of McCormick Village Park on Old Clifton Road. The 30-acre park in a fast-growing part of the city will have a mile-long loop trail, playground and wetland boardwalk.
Port Orchard was awarded a second grant to buy land and an easement to extend the 1.5-mile Bay Street path along the city's waterfront. The $105,750 grant is enough to extend the pedestrian and cycling path about 500 feet.
The projects were seven of the 215 submitted to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program last year. The WWRP is one of the state's largest sources of money to preserve natural areas, build parks and trails and protect farmland. Only four Kitsap projects were ranked as high priorities for full funding. They included the mountain bike park, the Bay Street path and two land conservation purchases, one that would have expanded the Stavis Natural Resources Conservation Area near Seabeck and another that would have helped the Great Peninsula Conservancy buy a wooded North Kitsap property known as Grovers Creek.
In a controversial move, Senate leaders in April reshuffled the WWRP's spending priorities, pulling money away from land purchases and pouring much of the WWRP's funds into the maintenance and development of city and county parks.
Conservation groups protested, calling the move a dismantling of a independent ranking and funding process that is supposed to function beyond the influence of politics.
The WWRC's rankings were restored but the final funding amount — $55 million — was about $10 million less than the last budget. The lower-than-expected amount didn't allow for the funding of several high-ranking projects, including the Stavis and Grovers Creek projects. Only two Kitsap projects — the mountain bike park and Bay Street path — were funded by the WWRP.
"We really appreciate that the integrity of the program was restored," said Vlad Gutman, a policy director with the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, a nonprofit that represents about 280 outdoor and conservation groups.
While restoring the WWRP's structure, Senate budget leaders also created a new granting program, known as the Recreation Conservation Office Recreation Grants, that achieves much of what Senate leaders tried to accomplish in April. Funded with $38.6 million, the new program's grants went mostly to park improvement projects. It was through this program that some of Kitsap's lower-ranking projects — Waterman Pier, Sound to Olympics Trail, McCormick Village Park, Waterfront Park and the Port of Kingston's park — received funding.