Here we sit in a large county that rubs elbows with a booming metropolis just a ferry ride away.
More city folks are moving here, retiring or electing to commute to work. Will increasing development someday threaten the natural places we treasure? I often wonder how long we can enjoy healthy forests, a variety of wildlife, even salmon streams?
Lest I sound like Ronda Raincloud, here’s some good news. It comes in the form of local folks dedicated to protecting our richest natural places. Our county is blessed with an accredited nonprofit Land Trust that has been saving our natural areas, thanks to the support of over 1,000 members and a hard-working staff. If you treasure our wild places, Kitsap County’s Great Peninsula Conservancy deserves your applause.
The conservancy was formed when other similar groups joined together 20 years ago. Today, almost 11,000 Kitsap acres, chosen for their rich, natural features, have been rescued from bulldozers in perpetuity. More acres are being added as support from residents keeps growing. Funding for many projects comes from the generosity of local residents. Some donate land or the money to purchase it; others grant the GPC a “conservation easement”, agreeing to protect certain portions of their acreage forever.
A variety of educational programs are also offered free to the public; the conservancy holds guided nature walks, as well as outdoor programs just for children. Adult volunteers often help with trail maintenance and stewardship of Kitsap’s protected forests.
Brand new on the GPC’s long list of acquisitions lies near Seabeck on Hood Canal, where a rocky cliff rises from the beach at the north end of a broad peninsula at Point Misery. Here, a huge saltwater lagoon is frequented by surf smelt, sand lance and herring, which endangered salmon feed on. The point hosts a variety of shellfish and is visited by water fowl. Even the endangered marble murrelet has been spotted here. The area simply percolates with life.
The conservancy was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the National CoastalWetlands Conservation program, matched with $700,000 from state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board, to purchase the pristine 20.7-acre site. As long as county residents continue their support, the GPC and its partners will continue to protect the best of Kitsap’s wild places for all to enjoy. For details go to greatpeninsula.org.
Nancy Sefton is a columnist for Sound Publishing who writes about nature.