Olalla park earns major grant

It was a hidden gem when Kitsap County bought it three years ago. Now, thanks to a retroactive grant, Anderson Point Park is still largely hidden, but now boasts a $484,000 refund that may end up being the key to its future.

The 72-acre park — located at the end of Millihanna Road in Olalla — is still not heavily used, even though it officially became a county park in 2000. However, something about its yards upon yards of sandy beach and unspoiled forest land made county officials believe it would be worth shelling out $1 million for.

“It’s a spectacular property,” said park planner Joseph Coppo.

Those who do use the park agree. Fred Howard and his dog Skeeter have been hiking down to the park’s beach several times a week since the county first took possession of the property. Howard said the half-mile forested walk keeps both him and Skeeter fit and limber and the park itself is well-worth the effort.

“The beauty of it is , if you want to come down and enjoy it, you have to come down that trail,” he said.

Coppo, however, said the lengthy trail does limit the park’s appeal. Although the gravel/dirt path is wide and the views beautiful, the hike proves too much for many people.

In addition, the staggering original cost of the land made it difficult for the county to do any significant improvements on the parcel. Thus far, the county’s only been able to install the small parking lot and a few picnic benches — permanent facilities are only a far-off wish at this point.

Vandalism is an ongoing problem as the park is well away from most houses and seems to attract bonfire-loving teenagers. Howard said kids were responsible for tearing apart much of an old beach house on the site and burning up one of the park’s picnic tables.

To offset some of the acquisition cost, the county has been steadily applying for Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation grants since 2001 — the first year the county could do so. The grants run on a biannual cycle, so, after the county failed in its first grant attempt, it had to wait until this year to try again.

Agencies only get two shots at the IAC grants, Coppo said, so county staff threw extra effort behind its 2003 application.

“We beefed up some areas we didn’t score as well in,” he said. “(2001) was a fairly competitive year.”

The grant money comes just in time for the county’s next six-year parks plan. With an extra $516,000 in the parks budget, Anderson Point may finally make the county’s list of fundable projects. Coppo said as more and more people stumble onto the out-of-the-way park, amenities and improvements are going to become key to maintaining the park’s popularity.

“It does need to have some restroom facilities and some upgrades to the road in,” he said. “We have some ideas but nothing firm.”

Howard, however, hopes the county doesn’t change too much. Easier access, to him, means more vandalism. He said the county’s efforts to make the park more popular might backfire as it’s forced to spend even more money cleaning up after those who misuse the property.

“I’m a firm believer that if it works, don’t fix it,” Howard said. “And this works great.”

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