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Gorst future looking green

After nearly two years of prep work, Kitsap County is finally ready to pump some green — both the leafy and monetary kind — back into Gorst.

With $2.4 million secured in federal, state and local government grants, the county is ready to take ownership this week of the last parcel featured in the first phase of its extensive Gorst Creek Estuary Restoration Program.

Earlier this week, Port of Bremerton Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebery was preparing to quick deed the second of two sites to the county, clearing the way for the project to begin, since the county must own the land for it to qualify for the grant money.

“The pieces have fallen together,” said Peter Battuello of Parametrix, an engineering firm with a strong focus on environmental sciences, chosen by the county to spearhead the project with other local companies.

Parametrix will oversee the cleanup of the four contaminated sites first on the schedule, eventually making them much more hospitable to both the health of the lush estuary they border, and the economic health of the surrounding community.

Once supporting active lumber mills, a cement processing plant and a junkyard, the largely abandoned parcels are not only littered with debris, but harbor soil and groundwater contamination that severely limit their future prospects.

All four sites — including the old homes of the Pope Lumber and Bremer Lumber mills, the Evergreen Auto Wrecking Yard and the Port Orchard Sand and Gravel Batch Plant — need plenty of work, as each contains a variety of debris ranging from concrete dust, small auto parts to a towering concrete batch plant left to rust for 20 years.

But thanks to legislation passed in 2002 known as the Brownfields Revitalization Act, the Environmental Protection Agency can provide counties like Kitsap considerable financial and other support to restore abandoned industrial properties and attract new businesses in areas like Gorst.

The county’s ambitious estuary restoration program focuses on a 130-acre area that extends from just east of the Sinclair Inlet Wildlife Viewing Area — 20-acres of relatively undisturbed habitats that will serve as a reference for restoring the rest of the area — to just beyond the railroad trestle over State Highway 3 and includes the mouth of Gorst Creek.

Hoping to make the land more hospitable to both businesses and wildlife, the county has several goals for the area, including removing the existing infrastructure and contaminated soil, restoring 11 acres of salt marsh estuary, improving 1,100 feet of shoreline, and constructing public access in the form of the Mosquito Fleet Trail.

“The overall theme of the project is balancing the economic needs with environmental needs,” said Terrie O’Neill, Kitsap County spokeswoman, explaining that it won’t be long before the public can see the transformation begin.

In fact, Battuello said one of the most noticeable remnants of Gorst’s industrial past — the hulking white towers standing guard over the Subaru dealership next door — will soon be just a memory.

“Visible changes should appear by next month, which will include taking down the concrete batch plant,” Battuello said.

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