Rhododendron Preserve Reopens

As communities throughout Washington state slowly begin to reopen, Kitsap County has been able to reopen some of its outdoor spaces. The 426-acre Rhododendron Preserve owned and managed by Keta Legacy Foundation (also known as Mountaineers Foundation) is among the places Kitsap residents can now visit for a breath of fresh air and mind-clearing scenery.

The Preserve, located off Seabeck Highway in Bremerton, is one of the region’s largest remaining lowland virgin forests and home to the Chico Creek watershed, with 68 miles of streams. Chum, steelhead, Coho and cutthroat trout cut their way through the lush habitat under the cover of soaring western red cedar, pine trees and Douglas fir.

By Aaron J. Hilliard

The Preserve’s trail to Big Tree is a moderate 1.5 mile roundtrip walk for families and children to enjoy together. This time of year is an especially good time to enjoy the flowers of the Pacific rhododendron – our state flower, and the inspiration for the name of the Preserve. Visitors can also glimpse young salmon in quiet pools within Wildcat and Lost Creeks.

“Nature is good for our health. At a time when many people are feeling unsettled, we welcome people to visit this ecological treasure and reconnect with the outdoors. We take enormous pride in our stewardship of this property and making this a place of discovery and connection.”

-Jeff Wirtz, president of Keta Legacy Foundation

The Preserve’s trailhead for the 1.5 mile Big Tree Trail is near The Mountaineers Kitsap Cabin and Kitsap Forest Theater Complex. Admission is free. Visitors are reminded that it’s important to avoid crowds, stay six feet apart, and bring a cloth face covering in case you come across other visitors. Note that parts of the trail are steep and require steady footing. Please leave pets at home to avoid stressing native animals. For more information, see our visit page.

Legal News

Protecting the Mountaineers Foundation name and legacy

A note from Mindy Roberts, past President and current Secretary of Keta Legacy Foundation aka Mountaineers Foundation since 1968

The Mountaineers Foundation was founded in 1968 by a small group of men and women who were dedicated to conserving the beautiful spaces of the Puget Sound region and helping connect people to nature. For over 50 years, our volunteer-led organization has been funded by generous donors who support our land acquisition and preservation work, stewardship of The Rhododendron Preserve, and environmental education programs for local youth.

Our long-time supporters are familiar that some of our work has been in partnership with the similarly-named alpine club known as The Mountaineers. And some of our supporters are aware of a legal conflict that has recently arisen between our similarly-named organizations. Though we have always been independent of one another, we’ve found common cause over the years on projects related to the Foundation’s Preserve, conservation-based publishing through Braided River, and more, which makes this conflict both confusing and unsettling for some people. As someone who has served leadership roles in both organizations, I hear the questions and understand the confusion.

The Foundation has always operated as an independent 501 (c)(3) and has raised funds as the Mountaineers Foundation since 1968. The Mountaineers only recently changed its tax exempt status in 2011, so it could start accepting charitable donations. Unfortunately, as The Mountaineers have developed a program to solicit charitable donations, they have started doing so with misleading statements and misuse of the Mountaineers Foundation’s registered mark.

We take very seriously the conservation-focused legacy we’ve built as the Mountaineers Foundation and the numerous bequests that make our ongoing work possible. In 2018, as we celebrated our 50-year milestone as a 501 (c)(3) organization, we updated our name to underscore our core values of conservation and connection. Keta is the Latin name for chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), which need healthy ecosystems from the mountains, through forests and streams, and throughout the marine environment. These natural systems also support communities of people with a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of all the residents of our region – people and wildlife. That’s why this simple word – keta – captures what we have done as an independent organization since 1968.

We are still the Mountaineers Foundation and still known as the Mountaineers Foundation, and that continues to be our legal name. We feel strongly that protecting our right to that name – and our ability to honor the intent of those who choose to give to our organization – is the right thing to do.

Our donors mean the world to us and we welcome the opportunity to answer questions. We are honored and privileged to have your support. We want you, our donors, to know that maintaining the integrity and the legacy of the Foundation is important, and we are working diligently to resolve the conflict as effectively and efficiently as possible.


Mindy Roberts

Secretary and former President
Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation

Thank You, GiveBIG Donors!

Preserve. Inspire. Educate. That’s what we’ve been doing at the Foundation for more than 50 years!

Today, our GiveBIG donors helped us:

Preserve: Your contributions help us steward the beautiful 426-acre Rhododendron Preserve on the Kitsap Peninsula. We also acquire and preserve land throughout the Salish Sea region.

Inspire: Your contributions support our competitive grant program which has funded hundreds of projects with other conservation and environmental education-focused non-profits.

Educate: And your contributions support our work with local schools and community members to offer educational opportunities that inspire a love of the outdoors.

Your generosity will continue connecting people to healthy ecosystems for 50 more.

From all of us at the Foundation – Thank You!

An Earthrise Law Center Grant

Looking Back

From its start 50 years ago, our Community Grants Program has been rooted in conservation. But there is more to preserving and protecting the environment than simply purchasing and managing a property. Protecting our ecosystems isn’t possible without strong defenders of strong environmental laws and policies. Our 2016 grant to Earthwise Law Center at Lewis & Clark School to fund law clerks and other students that work pro bono on environmental issues is one way we’ve used our program to support the next generation of environmental champions. We are proud of our support for Earthwise through grants like this.

A Mt. Adams Institute Grant

Looking Back


It is incredibly rewarding to look back on a community grant and see how our initial investment is still paying dividends. In 2015 the Mt. Adams Institute applied for a grant for their summer ecology programs for middle and high school students. This program would combine STEM curriculum combined with global issues to educate students. The program served students in both Oregon and Washington. A quick look at the Mt. Adams Institute website reveals they are still offering summer camps with a STEM curriculum component. Our grant of five years ago is still sending ripples into the community and connecting young people to healthy ecosystems. We’re delighted at the excellent work done by Mt. Adams Institute!