Banner Forest Heritage Park
It is easy to lose yourself in the solitude of the dense second-growth forest as 29 miles of rustic trails meander through 635 acres, offering an occasional glimpse of a black-tailed deer or Douglas squirrel. If you’re lucky you can also spot black bears, cougars, coyotes, raccoons, and beavers, as well as the many species of birds that call Banner Forest home.
Banner Forest Heritage Park was originally used by the Department of Natural Resources to generate funds for local schools through timber production and harvest, In the 1990s, a group of developers nearly bought it from DNR for a new 320-home neighborhood. After learning of this pending deal, community members formed the Olalla Community Council to mobilize efforts to stop the development of this beloved recreation area. The Olalla Community Council spent hundreds of hours advocating for protection of Banner Forest, and eventually succeeded by convincing the Kitsap County commissioners to rezone the forest in an effort to stop the sale. While the rezone was eventually struck down in court, the mounting public opposition convinced the developers to back out. DNR then worked with community members to create a management plan for the forest that retained it as a working forest while also protecting its recreational and esthetic values to citizens. In 1999, the Washington State Legislature approved a new Trust Land Transfer program which provided an opportunity for Kitsap County to acquire the land.
In 2000, Kitsap County purchased Banner Forest from DNR using $1,310,000 of Kitsap County Conservation Futures funds and $5,200,000 of Trust Land Transfer funds. The following year, Kitsap County conveyed a conservation easement protecting 139 acres of the forest’s most sensitive wetlands to Great Peninsula Conservancy. The forests in this 139-acre area will never be harvested, and will slowly mature into old-growth. Hiking, running, and other forms of passive recreation are allowed within the ecologically sensitive conservation easement area, but mountain biking and horseback riding are not allowed here.