County plans to buy Olalla boat launch

After years of failed negotiations with previous owners, the Kitsap County commissioners on Monday approved the purchase of the popular Olalla boat launch and several surrounding acres, securing its availability to the public.

Describing the launch as the “only saltwater boating access in South Kitsap for a 12-mile stretch from the Pierce County line to Manchester,” the Facilities, Parks and Recreation Department plans to purchase the launch, one acre of uplands and nine acres of tidelands for $160,000.

Owners David and Tyra Blaisdell — who purchased the property from longtime owner Marianne Nelson Stewart last year — will also be building a concrete stairway to help the public access the tidelands, at an added cost of $10,000.

A total of $175,000 will be used from the Parks Capital Improvement Fund for the purchase.

Although many residents hoped that the the majority of the land Stewart sold last year could be bought by the county and the entire section turned into a park, the two parties could not reach an agreement. Instead, the undeveloped land near the boat launch will be turned into upscale homes by builder Roy Hjalseth.

Byran Petro, Stewart’s real estate agent, said he thought it was “very sad” that the entire property did not become a park.

“But we found the right buyer. Marianne did not want someone to come in that would just rape the property, and Hjalseth will do a good job,” he said.

Petro said although he believes Hjalseth can put up to eight homes on property, he said it will remain a “park-like setting.”

At the meeting Monday, Park Planner Joseph Coppo said the Blaisdells facilitated a smooth transition to the property purchase, and credited South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel with being essential to the process.

“We know this site is very popular with the public, which is why the county purchased it,” Coppo said, explaining that county officials would like “all activities to continue on the site,” including the Polar Bear Plunge.

Since the Plunge, an annual New Year’s Day event, involves hundreds of brave souls jumping off the bridge and into the frigid water near the boat ramp, it raises liability concerns for any owner of the property.

“It really is a matter of risk assessment,” Coppo said of continuing the event, adding, “I personally hope it can continue, and I’m sure the county will find some way that it can.”

Coppo said he was not sure exactly when the decision on the future of the event would be made, but said it almost assuredly would be made before Jan. 1.

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