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Banner Forest watch group planned

Structures like this mountain biker teeter-trotter have already been demolished at Banner Forest. - Courtesy photo
Structures like this mountain biker teeter-trotter have already been demolished at Banner Forest.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Against the backdrop of an ongoing battle between mountain bikers and other users of South Kitsap’s Banner Forest, the county Parks and Recreation Department has announced plans to form a Banner Forest Watch Group.

According to a news release distributed on Monday, the group is being organized “to monitor Banner Forest and the Banner Forest Master Plan.”

The release makes no mention of the controversy brewing at the park regarding the county’s decision last month to begin demolishing dozens of jumps and hazards constructed by mountain bikers from downed trees and other materials, but Parks Superintendent Dori Leckner last week noted, “The first step is just to inventory the whole property and map out the trails so we know what we’re dealing with.

“At this point,” she said, “we don’t even know what’s back there — and it changes every day.”

A watch group charged with monitoring activities at the park would almost certainly help keep track of where new structures were popping up.

Anger and frustration regarding demolition of the obstacles boiled over during an Aug. 2 meeting of the Banner Forest Stewardship Committee at the Long Lake Community Center.

At the meeting, more than 100 attendees — most of them disgruntled mountain bikers — were told by South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido that the county would stop demolishing the structures long enough for the county’s risk-assessment manager to evaluate the policy.

“I’m willing to go back and talk to the commissioners tomorrow,” she said. “But you’ve got to accept that some of those jumps and teeter-totters that have been built in the park just don’t belong there.”

Leckner later agreed the structures had to be removed because of liability concerns.

“We can’t have people going back there on their own carving unauthorized trails and constructing dangerous obstacles,” she said.

Kitsap County purchased the 635-acre Banner Forest from Washington Department of Natural Resources in 2000, and the 2002 Master Plan recommended steps to achieve the goals and actions addressed in the plan.

Under the Master Plan, the park is envisioned as a multi-use facility to be enjoyed by hikers, bikers and horseback riders alike.

In recent years, however, the park has become a particular favorite of mountain bikers throughout the entire Puget Sound region, which has been a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, the park attracts hundreds of thrill-seekers year-round.

On the other, the bikers have formed volunteer work parties to clear more trails and construct bike stunts. And while many of the structures are ingenious in their design, none of them were built with the approval — or even the knowledge — of the Parks Board.

And county officials, who aren’t even sure what hazards the park includes, worry someone will injure themselves on one of the makeshift jumps and file a lawsuit.

Garrido said she is seeking applications from citizens interested in Banner Forest and who are willing to work with County Park staff to “assure the forest is sustained into the future and to determine a plan of action toward further implementation of the plan.”

The watch group will be made up of “representatives interested in environmental education, flora, forestry, hiking, biking, equestrian activities, wildlife, wetlands, photography, land conservancy, and recreation as well as forest neighbors will contribute practical knowledge about all aspects of Banner Forest.”

An application and position description can be obtained from Jan Koske, Kitsap County volunteer services coordinator, at (360) 337-4650, or jkoske@co.kitsap.wa.us

An application may also be completed on line at www.kitsapgov.com/volunteer/frmbrdapp.htm.

Applications should be submitted by 5 p.m. on Aug. 23.

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