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City may buy 49-acre woodland by Gazzam

The serene Peters property is eyed with $1.01 million in open space funding.

Olemara Peters has some strong views about land. One is that it belongs to itself – the people on it are secondary.

But someone has to hold title, and nearly half the Peters family holdings near Gazzam Lake may soon come under public ownership.

An agreement signed this week would see the public purchase of some 49 acres of forestland for $1.01 million, under the city’s open space preservation program.

“I’m disconcerted by what I see going on, and I definitely want it not to go on here,” said Peters, a Redmond resident whose paternal family ties to Bainbridge go back generations.

“My mother grew up partly among Native Americans in Missouri and Oklahoma, with mentors who I think taught her the things I’ve gotten the benefit from,” she said. “And I know my thought of the land belonging to itself comes from long before white folks got here and started paving it all.”

Property co-owners Olemara and her sister Allison Peters Jablonko, who resides in Italy, have been working with the Bainbridge Island Land Trust for several years on a preservation deal.

Purchase of the 49 acres was negotiated by the Open Space Commission over the past few months, member Lee Cross said.

The land abuts Gazzam Lake Preserve, and is bounded on the west by Deerpath Lane and on the south by Baker Hill Road. The forested parcel slopes to the southeast, cut by several ridges and ravines and ending at a mirror pond buttressed by an earthen dam.

Although worked as a tree farm over the years, the parcel has nonetheless been described as “what Gazzam Lake will look like 50 years from now.”

Cross and others credited the stewardship of the Peters family. Longtime caretaker Roy Wagner, a family friend, has removed invasive species and restored a small area that was clearcut perhaps 25 years ago.

“You could spend a lifetime here, and not know every inch of it,” Wagner said. “That’s literally true.”

With the 64-acre Close family property – for which the city and BILT negotiated purchase earlier this year – and Gazzam Lake, the public would hold more than 430 acres of contiguous forestland at the southwest corner of island.

“It’s getting close to being a regional park,” Cross said.

Several trails connect neatly with Baker Hill Road and the Gazzam preserve; the network would allow a continuous, miles-long hike from Point White Drive, across the public portion of the Schel Chelb estuary, past the lake and all the way to the banks of Port Orchard Narrows.

The purchase is expected to go before the City Council for approval on May 26.

While the Peters family will retain the eastern half of the property, on which they have a vacation cabin, Olemara Peters said she wants to see islanders use the 49 acres to get properly reattuned.

“I am looking for a way to help set up the space with its public interface as an education opportunity, for people to get back their innate faculties for recognizing the ground and the biosphere,” she said. “Those faculties are being completely suppressed for everybody, by all the electronics and what’s passing for music and entertainment and so forth.”

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