Volunteers help target logging in Kitsap park

BREMERTON — A pink ribbon means mercy. A blue blast of spray paint means the end is near.

With rolls of ribbon and paint cans, a half-dozen volunteers spent Wednesday morning tramping through underbrush and marking trees for the Kitsap County’s planned selective logging program at Newberry Hill Heritage Park. The zones marked in pink will stay intact, preserving some of the 1,100-acre park’s oldest and most ecologically diverse stands. The trees girdled with a blue ring will be cut and hauled out. The aim, said forestry consultant Derek Churchill, is to restore the forest to its pre-clearcut glory.

“Here we have great wildlife habitat, so that means we leave it alone,” Churchill said Wednesday as he oversaw the pink-tagging of a grove blanketed with salal and shaded by old cedars. “But over there, it’s a monoculture of Douglas fir.”

The “over there” portion of Newberry amounts to about 75 acres that was clear-cut and replanted with firs in the late 1970s — nearly three decades before Newberry was preserved as a county park. The stand is crowded with trees of a nearly uniform size and shape. Just about every tree under a foot in diameter will get a blue ring.

Churchill and Kitsap County forester Arno Bergstrom trained about a dozen volunteers to select and tag Newberry’s trees. They’ve already marked off wetland areas, giving them a buffer of 100 feet — double the state requirement. The pink-tagged “skip zones” are designated in areas with the telltale signs of maturity and variety. Volunteer Frank Stricklin cited the young cedars, old alders, large dead trees, woodpecker holes and soggy patches of ground as cause for a wide pink-tagged area near Newberry’s border with Klahowya Secondary School.

“It’s almost an art,” Bergstrom said of their approach to selective logging. The traditional approach, he said, isn’t all that selective, with foresters reducing trees to dots on a grid.

“But this way respects irregularities and diversity,” he said.

Logging will begin sometime in July, with about 1 million board feet of timber slated to come out of Newberry by the end of September. The logging program will then move to North Kitsap Heritage Park, Banner Forest Heritage Park and the other properties that make up the 6,800 acres of forested parkland under county ownership. Timber sales could generate as much as $100,000 per year for the county’s forest stewardship fund, which pays Bergstrom’s salary and backs various restoration projects.

Paul Larson, vice president of the North Kitsap Heritage Park Stewardship Group, helped tag in Newberry to get a sense of what’s in store for his favorite county park.

“This is a good test,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes here and improve on it.”

Churchill led similar ecologically-minded logging programs on public lands on Vashon Island. His work there has earned praise from the Forest Stewardship Council and the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust.

Churchill said Kitsap’s forestry program benefits from a dedicated group of volunteers.

“It’s amazing the level of volunteer support you have here,” Churchill said. “In other areas, you’d have to pay consultants (to do tagging), and that really drives up costs.”

Having the park’s users help select trees for logging gives them insight into the process and may boost the project’s overall quality, he said.

“The people who know and care about this park are the ones literally deciding each and every tree that comes out,” he said.

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