Karen and Harry Creviston of Lake Quinault showed up at an all-day forum at Grays Harbor College Tuesday hoping to get some answers from proponents behind an effort to expand the boundaries of Olympic National Park.
The Crevistons had heard rumors that the Wild Olympics coalition wanted to give the National Park Service the ability to buy homes on the SouthShore Road. The Park Service already owns land on the north shore of the lake.
But Jon Owen, a spokesman with the conservation and recreation groups, told them that was absolutely not true. The Wild Olympics coalition sponsored the open-house to answer questions and try to get its message out to the public.
Although Owen's group does favor expanding the actual boundaries of the park if property owners surrounding certain parts of it are willing to sell their land. Owen says the group is concentrating its efforts around the Queets River, not Lake Quinault.
"What a relief," Karen Creviston said at the news. "You just don't know what to believe anymore."
The Crevistons say they've lived on the north side of Lake Quinault for 60 years. Harry is a retired logger.
"And I'm losing neighbors all the time," Karen Creviston said. "Olympic National Park is buying up the property all the time. It's been going on for 20 years. They're slowly buying up our community. For the first time in years, the local mercantile is closed."
The Crevistons say they think the national park is big enough. And it's for that reason alone they said they can't support the Wild Olympics endeavor.
But Owen thinks the job of his group is not to make instant fans, but to educate the public, combat rumors and take suggestions. One suggestion was to take their presentation directly to Lake Quinault.
"And that's a great idea," Owen said.
He says they must have engaged at least 100 people during the eight-hour public workshop at the Hillier Union Building on the college campus.
The coalition has proposed to add a "wilderness" designation to prevent mechanized access and logging to about 134,000 acres of Forest Service land on the edge of Olympic National Park, add the "wild and scenic" designation to about 400 miles of rivers in and around the national park and expand the actual boundaries of the park if property owners surrounding certain parts of it are willing to sell their land. About 37,000 acres of timberland would be affected.
Hoquiamite Bill Pickell and other opponents set up tables across from the Wild Olympics presentation to offer a counterpoint to the issue.
Opponents of the concept are concerned about the impact on timberland as well as public access issues.
Joy Stapleton of Aberdeen says she's gathered about 40 signatures from her neighbors in favor of the proposal.
"Most people are more for it than against, it but the ones who are against it are really angry and they let me know," she said. "I'm all for preserving the wilderness areas so they stay here and don't get destroyed or cut down."
Levi Olden, a 20-year-old Eagle scout, said he has logged more than 700 miles of hiking experience in the Olympics, including 50 miles each summer in the deep forests with his scout troop.
"We just take a week and go out there," he said. "Most people don't go out more than three miles. The solitude, the scenic views, it's awesome. I want those areas to be protected because if they're not protected someone might be able to come in and log them and lose them."
Olden went around Grays Harbor College and gathered about 200 signatures in favor of the proposal.
Shelley Spalding, a retired fish biologist from Elma, said she's also concerned that treasured spots on the Quinault Ridge might somehow be logged, even if there is no plan to log most of the area now. Those areas would be designated wilderness and protected from future logging under the Wild Olympics proposal.
"That can change," Spalding said. "That's the big thing. We've all seen that. Places in our backyard that we think are going to stay the same, it gets ruined. … The Olympic coast is one of the last places in Washington where there isn't a listed salmon species. This is the last stronghold for wild salmon."
But Jim Mason of Montesano wasn't convinced the new wilderness designations or park boundary expansions were necessary.
"Isn't a million acres enough?" Mason asked the proponents. "And most of that park nobody sees unless they fly over it. And those who do hike, only see 20 feet of each side of the trail."
Mason spent more than 20 minutes drilling the proponents with questions.
"Why do we need more?" Mason kept asking.
"Let's protect them now in case decades from now the regulations change," Owen replied.
Mason said he was a little boy when the national park was first created. He said he even had the opportunity to see President Franklin Roosevelt come through town. It was Roosevelt who signed legislation in 1938 creating the national park.
"This isn't anything new," Mason said. "People have always tried to figure out ways to expand the park and protect more of that land from logging. It's a debate that has happened for years now."