County planning to name center for Oke

The Kitsap County commissioners are taking steps this month to change the name of the Long Lake Community Center to the Bob Oke Community Center, in recognition of a local legislator’s determined effort to secure funding for cleanup of the popular, but algae-choked, lake.

“He has been so instrumental in the process of getting the lake cleaned up, and getting the funding for it,” said Debbie Austin, assistant to South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who proposed the name change.

Austin said since the center is county property, the process of re-naming it isn’t too much more complicated than deciding to do it, then passing a resolution, which is scheduled to happen Sept. 26.

“First, we had to check and make sure it hadn’t been named after anyone else, though, because we weren’t sure if it had ever been officially named,” Austin said.

Oke, (R-Port Orchard), has been working with the Citizens for Improving Long Lake (CILL) for years, supporting its efforts to create and implement a cleanup plan to rid the lake of invasive plants and toxic algae blooms.

CILL, which includes President Ken Spohn and other homeowners concerned about the health of the lake, spent the past three years researching and discussing options before formulating the plan, which is to pay an environmental engineering company $1.1 million to not only rid the lake of its three main problem plants, but to implement a 10-year management plan.

Once the plan was in place, Spohn said CILL then approached local lawmakers to find the money pay for it, which led them to Oke.

“He set up a couple of challenges for us,” Spohn said, explaining that Oke told them if the group got preliminary approval for the plan from both the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Ecology, along with support from at least two-thirds of lakefront homeowners, then he would have a good chance at getting state funding.

This year, Oke helped secure two streams of funding for the lake — a capital budget request submitted by him that will put at least $750,000 toward the lake’s cleanup, along with his SB-5699, which will help rid state lakes of toxic algae blooms and nuisance weeds, especially freshwater one like Long Lake.

Oke said he was “thrilled and honored” that the county wanted to name the center after him.

“Especially since most of the time they name it after someone after they’ve passed away,” he joked, adding that he has no intention of doing so any time soon.

In fact, Oke, who returned home last month after grueling months of treatment for the rare blood cancer multiple myeloma, said he feels stronger and stronger every day.

“I’m back weed-eating,” he said. “If I I can do that, I can do anything.”

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