For the Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as the Mountaineers Foundation, our top priority continues to be protecting our decades of stewardship and expansion of the Rhododendron Preserve, which has become a beloved cornerstone of the Kitsap community, core salmon habitat critical to their survival, and an amazing educational space for children of all ages. We care deeply about leaving a legacy for future generations so that they can witness the wonders of spawning salmon and immerse themselves in natural spaces in a changing world.
This situation, which the Mountaineers could have avoided, is unfortunate. Their leadership, specifically CEO Tom Vogl, knew they had no right to access our property since our agreement expired in December. When they reached out after a prolonged silence, the Foundation offered a good faith approach to reach an agreement that would include additional access across Foundation property, beyond what they already have through the Mountaineers’ own property, for added convenience for theater programming. In exchange, we had a modest request for them to sign a confidentiality agreement to begin to move the needle on negotiations for the overarching, three-year litigation. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers chose to reject our offer and, instead, planned to access our land without our permission.
Their delays aside, it truly caught us by surprise that the Mountaineers had not notified the theater group earlier this year that they had not secured supplemental access through our land prior to the start of their 2023 programming. We enjoy the performances and know how hard the volunteers and actors work to prepare. It is beyond belief that the Mountaineers would not have prioritized ensuring a mutually agreeable plan to add access for such important events.
Regardless, that should not stop theater programming. The Mountaineers has its own access to the Kitsap Forest Theater – it does not need to use the Foundation’s property. There are no ADA-compliant routes to enter or exit theater from either the Foundation or the Mountaineers access points. The Mountaineers sold tickets to the Kitsap Theater performances promising ADA-compliant wheelchair access that does not exist.
In the absence of planning on their part, the Mountaineers is now asking the Court to allow them broad access to do whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want on the Rhododendron Preserve, which they are not entitled to. Moreover, the Mountaineers is the only group that will not comply with our rules to stay on designated trails and to not disturb the vegetation and wildlife that calls the Preserve home.
They can try to deflect their responsibility to the theater group, members and ticket holders but by delaying their request for an access agreement and then rejecting our offer outright, they are solely at fault for the uncertainty facing the theater programming.
Despite their attacks on social media and their blogs, we continue to welcome the Mountaineers to come to the table to find common ground that allows us to refocus on our good work and our mission to protect and preserve the landscape and waterways and educate the next generation of land stewards.
-The Keta Legacy Foundation Board