A time of transition for Japanese Gulch Group | Gulch View

By Arnie Hammerman | Aug 20, 2014

Thank you for all the attention given to the Japanese Gulch Group. Whether you are a supporter, critic, politician or the press, it is flattering that there still is so much focus on our little organization.

Since there is some confusion regarding what the Japanese Gulch Group is all about, I’ll try to explain, and then you can help us decide what is best.

The Japanese Gulch Group never intended to purchase the property in the gulch with donations. I am sorry if there was confusion about this. We never said donations were going directly to the purchase.

Unless some wealthy donor contributed hundreds of thousands, or millions, we wouldn’t have been able to afford even a down payment on the property. Our goal was always to find a way to secure the property for public use and help facilitate that purchase.

We did that by using the money so generously donated in many ways to obtain the property for the public. If you want details, we opened our books to Sara Bruestle at The Beacon, and she did a nice job of reviewing the funding and spending of the Japanese Gulch Group in the Aug. 6 issue.

Our bookkeeper, Sherri Bear, even went back to her office, despite being on vacation, to get more information to The Beacon. I hope that other local organizations will be as honest and forthcoming as we were about their finances and operations.

What happens now? Japanese Gulch has been purchased and secured for public use forever. Should the Japanese Gulch Group shut down? The choice is yours.

If you stop donating to us, our funding will run out and we will fade away. Personally, I think that would be sad, as there is still plenty of work we can do for the community and the city.

The Japanese Gulch Group is shifting our focus from property acquisition to stewardship, sustainability and advocacy. There may be future opportunities for land acquisitions, so we won’t rule out that role completely, but right now we have a lot of great projects we can do with the gulch property.

We are currently waiting for city approval to continue with many things we have done for years, like trail maintenance, bridge repairs, maps and signage. The city is working on a master plan for the gulch, and so 2014 is a transition year.

We all have to be patient and give the city time to figure this out.

Since we can’t spend money on the upper gulch right now, we are looking at possible projects in the lower gulch, like getting water to the dog park for both dog and human drinking fountains.

We also know that when the master plan is complete there will be many projects the city needs our help with.

We are running the Japanese Gulch Group more efficiently, cutting major expenses like a paid director as we ready ourselves for the many projects revealed in the master plan.

We are actively involved in the Japanese Gulch Master Plan sub-committee. We continue to try to advocate for all gulch users to help the city understand and decide what activities are appropriate.

There has been a lot of talk about bike jumps, new trails being built and other existing or potential problems in the gulch. We believe that all current, former and future users of the gulch should have the right to discuss and present their activities to the city so it can make the best possible choices for how the gulch will be used.

This includes hikers, mountain bikers, off-leash dog walkers, BMX enthusiasts, horse riders, air soft and paintball participants and many more.

The 97 acres of property that was purchased this year is not pristine old growth forest. It has been logged and heavily used recreationally, there are countless trails, bike jumps, tree houses, pits and other anomalies.

There are also environmental concerns that should be addressed. In fact, the Japanese Gulch Group, in conjunction with Forterra and Boeing, held a number of events this year to start removing non-native species.

We understand there is a balance between environmental concerns and recreational activities. The master planning process the city has set up will help deal with this balance and allow recreational users access to the property, while also being sensitive of environmental issues.

As for the future of the Japanese Gulch Group we have some ideas of our own, but are also open to your suggestions. We are setting up a committee headed by former City Councilmember and JGG board member Richard Emery to look at the future of the group. Please send us your thoughts at info@japanesegulch.org.

If you support the Japanese Gulch Group, feel confident that your donations helped preserve this land and also continue to support and sustain the property. Once we get directions from the city, we will expand that role with more specific projects.

If you don’t like Japanese Gulch, open spaces and the dog park, you should still support us by encouraging others to contribute because the money we raise lowers your tax burden by offsetting the costs associated with this forest and its upkeep.

If you don’t want to donate money to us, you can still help, as we are always looking for volunteers.

The Japanese Gulch Group is an asset to the community because we help defer costs by bringing donated money and labor to the city for outdoor projects.

For more information, check out our recently revamped website at www.japanesegulch.org.

Please tell us how we can help better this community by supporting parks and open spaces. Thank you for your attention and your support.

Arnie Hammerman is a past president of the Japanese Gulch Group, which aims to preserve the 140-acre Japanese Gulch for parks and open space.

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