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Gate should open once Anderson Point Park reopens

A resident who lives on Millihanna Road says that a gate erected last summer by residents was installed with Kitsap County’s permission, and despite rumors to the contrary, was not installed to keep a local park closed.

Millihanna Road is a single lane gavel road that leads to Anderson Point Park, which was closed in December 2010 after rains from a severe storm caused erosion and damaged trails.

In February, the county approved $400,000 for the parks department. Half of the money will be used at the 66-acre South Kitsap park to help shore up trails damaged by landslides in 2010 and to repair Millihanna Road.

Resident Haley Barrett, who has lived on Milihanna Road since 2010, said a verbal agreement with the county parks department was that the gate would reopen when or if the park reopened. A gate was installed in June of 2013 at the entrance of Millihanna Road off Banner Road. There are eight homes located on the road.

“All of the neighbors on Millihanna Road paid for and installed the gate,” said Barrett. “This was done with the blessing of the parks department, prosecuting attorney, public works and the sheriff and fire departments. We have abided by all county rules and regulations, and have ensured that emergency services have access if needed.”

Barrett said since Anderson Point Park closed, residents have constantly fought a battle with cars and people accessing the closed park. She said the first two summers the park was closed, the gate to access the park’s parking lot was closed and signs placed informing the public the park was closed.

According to Barrett, Milihanna Road residents held a meeting with park department officials during the summer of 2011. She said residents asked the county to keep the parking lot gate open for a turnaround to keep people off the road. Additionally, Barrett says, the county agreed to install a sign stating the park was closed with the parking lot open for turnaround only.

The county published a notice on Aug. 31, 2011, announcing the park was closed to the public and that the main parking lot will remain open to serve as a turnaround only.

“Until such time that the park re-opens, no parking or stopping will be permitted. Violators will be issued summons,” stated the announcement.

“These signs also went missing and had to be continually replaced,” said Barrett. “This only increased the problems on the road. We then not only had daytime traffic, we had people in the park and parking lot at night, dumping trash, selling drugs, having bonfires and blowing stuff up."

After having an encounter with several teenagers, Barrett said both the sheriff’s and park’s department were notified and discussion about installing a gate began.

“It was not until the gate was installed and operational on June 28, 2013, and blocking access, did anyone in Olalla care about the park closure,” Barrett noted.

Jim Dunwiddie, county parks and recreation director, said after several months of collaboration between neighbors, the county and sheriff’s department, they tried to figure out how to control vehicles going into the closed park.

“We posted signs that would last for a very short time because people would tear them down,” he said.

Dori Leckner, parks and recreation department manager, said the department even put signs into two-feet deep concrete with steel posts in the park’s parking lot.

Dunwiddie said he wanted to accommodate the ability for vehicles to turn around in the park’s parking lot once they arrived and found that the park was closed. However, that wasn't necessarily the case.

“People would ignore the signs and started parking in Millihanna Road residents’ driveways.

Dunwiddie said in July 2011, individuals from the parks department, park advisory board, neighbors, the sheriff’s department and emergency services attended a meeting and decided to install a gate.

“That’s how the gate issue came up,” he said.

Leckner said the parks department notified all of our local government agencies and the residents notified the utility companies and emergency services.

After the gate was installed, two groups were formed on Facebook:   Preserve Anderson Point Park  and Kitsap Citizens For Opening Anderson Point Park”.

Barrett feels one of the groups is interested in working with the county in reopening the park, but feels the other is convinced the park is closed because of the gate.

Most of the discussions and opinions have been posted on both of the group’s Facebook pages.

Barrett said residents want the parks department to make sure there is  legal access for the public to the park on Millihanna Road.

Residents hire attorney

Since the residents were unable to get information from the county on the access issues for the past three years, Barrett said they hired Ronald Templeton, an attorney in Silverdale. Barrett said the attorney found there are several other easements along with the utility easements. The utility easements are 10 feet on each side of the road and are not actually part of Millihanna Road.

Barrett said since the park’s inception in 1999, the county has failed to maintain the road. She said residents don’t mind paying to maintain the road for their use, but they should not be expected to maintain it for public use.

“On a good day residents of this road may come and go two or three times per household. On a nice day the park may draw upwards of 40 or more cars, plus pedestrian, motorcycle and horse traffic,” Barrett said.

Dunwiddie said the road is not maintained by the county.

“We’ve had this arrangement for 10 years and everything was okay then,” he said.

On April 7, even with signs posted, notifying the park is closed, Barrett said she counted six groups of people walking around the gate and down the road to access the park.

“It will only get worse the nicer the weather gets,” she added.

Main issue is road’s easement

Dunwiddie said the main issue is the easement on Millihanna Road.

“There are layers upon layers of easements,” said Dunwiddie. “There is a lot of confusion of exactly where the easements are.”

He said the easement issue will be resolved by the prosecutor’s office, which has been working on the issue for three or four months.

Dunwiddie said the park closure is another key issue.

“Because the park is closed, there should be no access by the public,” said Dunwiddie. “The beach is accessible by water, but the park is closed.”

Signs have been posted notifying people not to go any further into the park, according to Dunwiddie.

He said Millihanna Road is the only way to access the park.

Dunwiddie said the residents had the right to put up the gate because some people erroneously thought they could still walk up to the park when it is closed.

He said the county feels if the park is open, the gate should be open. He doesn’t feel there was an issue that the gate was going to be closed when the park reopens.

“There has been discussion if the gate has to come out, or is the gate maintained for the hours the park where it is open from sunrise to sundown,” he said. "That issue hasn’t been resolved yet.”

Dunwiddie said he doesn’t see the residents as a “roadblock” in resolving the gate issue.

Park staff is putting together a design contract which will be permitted then sent out for bids, but hopes the work — which should take about six weeks — can be completed in July and August. Labor Day is Dunwiddie’s targeted date, but it could be later depending on permitting and the bid process.

He said his department released a final geo tech report by N.L. Olson. Addressing Anderson Point Park is under review by the parks department, the Department of Community Development and Public Works staff. It is available to the public on the parks and recreation website at www.kitsapgo.com/parks.

A captain of a Neighborhood Watch group on Banner Road, Thomas Smith, said since the gate were installed, crime has declined in the area.

“What I have seen is the crime incidents and bad stuff at Anderson Point Park has dropped significantly since it [the gate] was put in place,” Smith said.

He said he wants to see the park reopen with the gate closed from dusk to dawn.

 

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