There are pictures worth far more than a thousand words. The Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe's vision for transforming some 80 acres on the Port Angeles waterfront has people talking and thinking anew.
The derelict site of the old Rayonier pulp mill could be transformed into an environmentally sustainable, restorative "living community" that functions as an organic whole - where retail, convention and park uses enhance and support lodging, residential, cultural and other commercial activities.
Jamestown S'Klallam tribal chairman Ron Allen unveiled a model of a sustainable village along a revitalized waterfront; a restored creek flows into an estuary before emptying into the strait.
Salish-style buildings, familiar to travelers who pass the S'Klallam community campus in Blyn along U.S Highway 101, entwine with a natural backdrop of wildlife habitat.
The "Salish Village" echoes those traditional architectural themes while embodying restorative design concepts "for the next seven generations."
"Restorative design" brings nature back to the heart of the community in subtle, nearly invisible ways. It means that the community is designed to generate all its own power from the sun, the wind and the tides. The community is designed to conserve, reuse and treat all its water on site.
Restorative design represents the cutting edge of sustainability, going beyond the conservation principles of today's LEED-certified building technology.
The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design green building certification system has become a popular way to verify that something was designed and constructed according to standards developed by the U. S. Green Building Council in the 1990s.
Restorative design incorporates higher goals and new standards for energy and resource efficiency, achieved by partnering with Mother Nature.
"It is hard to visualize broad concepts, to take in the concern for many components," said Allen.
The Salish Village model Allen unveiled Aug. 13 embodies these rather abstract goals in every aspect of its design.
A 'win-win approach'
Allen contacted Michael T. Gentry, with the Gentry Architecture Collaborative in Port Angeles, to develop a concept that reflects the Salish cultural roots of the site that was once the historical Klallam village Y'innes.
Gentry worked with the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe designing its community center, Longhouse Market and Deli and fire station in Blyn. He also designed the newly opened Lower Elwha Klallam Heritage Center in Port Angeles.
"I believe that this visual representation will help bridge the interest of all parties in our community for a win-win approach."
Often called Rayonier, the site at 700 N. Ennis St. in Port Angeles housed saw mills off and on from 1887-1929, then reopened as a pulp mill operated by Rayonier from 1930 until it closed in 1997.
The mill used sulfites and acids to break down wood pulp into cellulose and for the first 40 years, it released chemicals directly into Port Angeles Harbor. For the subsequent 27 years, chemicals were pretreated before being released into the harbor. The chemical legacy resulted in a site that meets the pollution Environmental Protection Agency's criteria for Superfund clean-up.
"We agree with the Lower Elwha Klallam and the community that the cleanup and restoration of the site is the first step," Allen said.
While Rayonier is legally obligated to pay for the cleanup, the magnitude of the cleanup is relative to the use of the site.
"We need to look into the future to see what an opportunity this is to change the character, image and economic opportunity for the Port Angeles harbor and our peninsula," Allen said.
The Salish Village model allows people a chance to see what a revitalized harbor community could look like while also "trying to advance the concept" of restorative design.
The model can be seen at the Center for Community Design office in the Landing Mall, 115 E. Railroad Ave., Suite 213 in Port Angeles. Call 457-7550.
Every Friday the center offers Aloha 5 o'clock from 5-6:30 p.m., an open house Northwestern-style celebration of Aloha Friday. Residents are invited to stop by, enjoy refreshments, music and learn more about community design.
An open, collaborative approach to community design aims to "advance a common ground for all," said Allen, not a select few.
Restoration a delicate process
Local tribes have a "very active interest" in the site because of the historical Klallam village, Y'innes, and the environmental significance of the estuary and Ennis Creek. The creek that flows through the eastern edge of the mill property got its name from the community that thrived on the site for centuries.
The Rayonier mill was built on top of the creek's historical estuary.
Allen has experience in reclaiming industrial waterfront sites, having worked on a similar waterfront project, restoring Bellingham Bay.
At Rayonier, however, "the content is more aesthetic, with opportunity for tourists and a community opportunity for future generations."
Restoration is "more delicate" because of the village.
The Salish Village addresses cultural concerns by raising the ground level. Going up doesn't disturb ancient burials, Allen said. Some 12 feet above sea level, new construction should be safe from the sea's challenges.
While lots of towns have remodeled their waterfronts, to interest tourists and attract visitors, Port Angeles is a "natural resource diamond - with the potential to become a major tourist magnet," Allen said.
A self-contained village, built with restorative design, the cutting edge of green, sustainable building technology, "takes it to a different level."
Quite simply, there's never been anything quite like this, anywhere.
"A public sector entity, like the tribe, that can use public dollars, can help orchestrate such an ambitious project," said Allen.
No casino, but museum possible
Regarded as strong environmentalists, the tribes can "balance public and tribal funding, with corporations in the mix, to determine what to do with the site" - without compromising what makes the site so valuable.
There are always "distractions" when tribes are involved, Allen acknowledged. The first distraction: People wonder if there will be a new casino.
The simple answer: No.
Few understand the gaming arena, its federal and Department of the Interior regulations. They're so restrictive that only five gaming centers have been approved since 1988, he said. "We're sensitive to the community. It is not in our interest."
A casino is "not viable - nor appropriate for the site. But a world-class museum would be," Allen said, noting that such a museum would cost "in the tens of millions."
Costs may vary with project size
The whole Salish village could cost between $30 million and $60 million, "depending on the magnitude" of the project.
"It doesn't work without enough foot traffic. It needs hotels and conference centers for the foot traffic - and the market," while complementing the image of the Port Angeles Harbor community.
The second distraction: Indians don't pay taxes. "That's true, if the land is held in trust," said Allen.
But if the tribes create jobs, create more revenue and enhance the economy, their contribution is far greater than what would come through property taxes. Generating revenue and investment in the community magnifies the economic revenue base.
The overall potential is "phenomenal," he said.
"The question of the day is, how do we find this common good, find a unified commitment?" Allen asked.
In fact, many questions need to be answered:
Should Rayonier be a participant? Or be eliminated from the driver's seat?
Rayonier has a legal obligation to clean up the site under current memos of understanding with the county and the state. Bottom line, its interest is profit. Is it in their interest to eliminate their obligation or to drag it out? Profit drives their choices but doesn't relieve them of the fiscal obligations, Allen said.
Who can be partners in determining the level of cleanup? How much can you pay for the property? What is the level of corporate responsibility?
Who is leading the effort? The tribes? A boondoggle?
Some local community group that might emerge further down the road?
Allen foresees a win-win leadership coalition with key representatives of public entities, the tribes, the city, the port and the county with a coalition of enough investors to make the initiative viable.
"There's never any solution that satisfies all - but we can find a ways to address the majority of concerns and then move on down the road.
"The last 100 years are water under the bridge. Now it's time to look toward the next 100 years. Through working together on this project, we're moving forward," Allen said.
Visualizing the plan
As if to provide a sample of what working together can accomplish, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Rayonier unveiled a conceptual plan for Ennis Creek in August.
A technical team was formed as a legal agreement between Rayonier and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
The experts from both tribes, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Rayonier and the city of Port Angeles, and Shreffler Environmental
as a facilitator, quickly agreed on addressing much of the lower creek south of the property and completed their plan in near-record time.
Port Angeles can become a model across the nation, showing how cooperation can create sustainable, restorative development.
The fate of the next seven generations is in our hands.
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