McCormick Woods mulls ‘back door’

The “back door” to McCormick Woods — a dirt road closed off by double gates — is getting increased attention from Fire District 7 as growth in the development and national security concerns make access a top priority.

Currently, the only way in or out of the huge planned development is via Old Clifton Road. That single entrance is miles away from the nearest fire station and a would-be bottleneck should the settlement need to be evacuated for some reason.

Two other access points — including the “backdoor” connection with Glenwood Road to the southeast — have been part of the development’s plans since the beginning but as yet are nothing more than lines on paper.

“There is no bright line for when you need a second open roadway in and out of an area like this,” said Assistant Fire Chief Wayne Senter.

Senter, who has been representing the district in its discussions with McCormick officials, said technically McCormick Woods doesn’t lack for fire coverage. Three stations — Gorst, Tremont and Glenwood — respond to emergency calls in that area and have to date had “pretty good” response times.

However, because the Glenwood station is located right at the entrance of a gravel-paved logging road that marks a possible future site of the proposed second access point, it seems impractical to send crews all the way around to the main entrance, miles out of their way.

Right now, the logging road is largely unused by the district. Although only a mile or two long, Senter said most fire crews consider it unnecessarily risky. A bad case of erosion or a fallen tree could make the road impassable, forcing the crews to back out the entire way and go around anyway.

“It can be used and I think some of the officers do use it,” Senter said. “But we use the paved roads because we don’t want to risk the fire engine going over the side of a soft shoulder.”

The district wants the road paved and wants McCormick Land Co. to pay for it — the road runs through McCormick-owned land and, in the end, it’s McCormick resident that would benefit the most from faster fire department response times.

A crew coming from Glenwood up the proposed access road could be at just about any location in McCormick Woods within minutes.

“It’s a mile and — bang — you’re there,” Senter said.

Nevertheless, McCormick Land Co. vice-president Doug Skrobutt said the district’s request isn’t as simple as it sounds. Paving several miles of road through wildland is a “big-ticket” item, he said, and no a project to be undertaken lightly.

Complicating matters even further, Skrobutt said McCormick wants to eventually develop its 120-odd acres between the current development and Glenwood Road. If those plans go through, that access road could be the main thoroughfare for the new development. Skrobutt said, because of that, McCormick is anxious to make sure it’s in the right spot.

“It has implications for that infrastructure,” he said, adding that the location of the current road would not be McCormick’s first choice in building a permanent throughway.

Skrobutt said his company would like to wait until Kitsap County and Port Orchard finish their joint planning process — a process that will likely address the acreage in question — before moving forward.

However, as the joint planning runs into problem after problem, the fire district has been pushing for a hard deadline by which the road needs to be done.

Senter has asked for January 2005; Skrobutt believes January 2006 is a more realistic goal.

Fire Chief Mike Brown appeared willing to go with the 2006 date, so long as it didn’t get moved back any further.

“We’re going to work to hold them to their timeline and not step it back any further,” Brown said.

In the meantime, Skrobutt said McCormick Land Co. is willing to reimburse the fire district $6,500 for paving work it did on its end of the road in the late 1990s.

Originally, the money was supposed to be paid out of loans taken out when the company built a hotel in the development. When that fell through, the district asked to be paid straight out of the McCormick’s coffers.

Skrobutt said he has no problem honoring that deal.

“If that was the agreement, that’ll go forward as well,” he said.

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