Forterra's Beach Party at Little Skookum Inlet at Port Blakely Tree Farms in Shelton, Washington
Danny Ngan

TGIF Northwest-style

A Community Conversation at Little Skookum Inlet

A few of my Forterran teammates and I spent most of Friday at Little Skookum Inlet, a few miles South of Shelton. We arrived mid-morning during a desultory ebb tide and ever so slight breeze. For the next few hours, I pretended to write emails, but really I was watching a Herron pick out its brunch choices at the tidal supermarket through which it waded. Everyone else buzzed about with last minute preparations.

Our Olympic Trustees joined us at 2pm for a structured conversation, followed by an evening beach party with about 85 of our friends and supporters. The day ended with a few last moments of quiet and twilight before heading back to Seattle, with the Point fully back to its own introspective, circadian rhythms.

The structured conversation with five of our South Peninsula trustees focused on the changes and challenges of our rural towns and communities since we first launched the Cascade and Olympic Agendas. It was one of a series of conversations we are having as part of the Next Wave—our renewal on the Cascade and Olympic Agendas. There was a fair amount of good natured teasing and gentle humor, which happens when old friends take on serious subjects. But there was a whole lot more exploration and insight.

 

Community conversation
Danny Ngan

During the conversation, our Trustees called on Forterra to evaluate economic development to compliment current public infrastructure investment, like the Mason County Transit-Community Center Project in Shelton, and consider what first-step projects might be possible. Questions circled around identifying the ten fundamentals necessary for a successful rural town in today’s Northwest. There was general consensus that confidence, measured optimism, innovation and prudent risk-taking were first among the ten, and which, by the way, were amply evident among our trustees that afternoon. We concluded with a commitment to work together to identify our towns’ root identities on which we can build the next generation of strong, sustainable rural communities.

During the conversation, our Trustees called on Forterra to evaluate economic development to compliment current public infrastructure investment, like the Mason County Transit-Community Center Project in Shelton, and consider what first-step projects might be possible. Questions circled around identifying the ten fundamentals necessary for a successful rural town in today’s Northwest. There was general consensus that confidence, measured optimism, innovation and prudent risk-taking were first among the ten, and which, by the way, were amply evident among our trustees that afternoon. We concluded with a commitment to work together to identify our towns’ root identities on which we can build the next generation of strong, sustainable rural communities.

Community Conversation

The breeze quickened as the afternoon waned and our festivities waxed. Guests arrived from the Olympia area and from around the Peninsula. Amanda Reed, the new Executive Director for the Capital Land Trust, joined us and we were happy to introduce her to our guests—I look forward to working with her in the years ahead.

Most the evening was dedicated to conversation, good food and the music of The Pine Top Pickers, a local blue grass band. For the conversation part, we were on our own and we made plenty of it. The terrific food was courtesy of our board member Bill Taylor and his culinary strike force from Taylor Shellfish.

Oysters provided by Taylor Shellfish
Danny Ngan

We tried an experiment during the event, dispensing with the usual speeches. Instead and with little warning, we invited up to the mike Bill Taylor, Court Stanley—President of Port Blakely Timber Companies, Mark Doumit—President of Washington Forest Protection Association, Jeff Dickerson—representing the Squaxin Island Tribe and Dave Herrera—member of the Skokomish Tribe. We challenged each with a question: from climate to population shifts to ocean acidification, the issues facing us are at a scale greater than we ever faced; how do we come together and respond?

The responses ranged from what one family has learned over generations of living off the Sound’s waters to what another has from generations of growing trees to a biology lesson on how climate affects oyster sprat. Each spoke of how we have learned to work together these past decades in ways that once were not possible. Throughout there was recognition and respect for the immeasurable tribal legacy across the Sound and on its uplands.

There was resolute consensus that we now need to demonstrate the courage to build on this history and develop a cohesive response to these grave challenges.

There was frequent reference to our current project with Port Blakely and the Squaxin Island Tribe to conserve the 825 acre Kalmilche Point we were standing on, as both a case study of the deep cooperation that’s possible and as a beginning point for the real work ahead.

Attendees answered Next Wave questions

 

Attendees answered Next Wave questions
Attendees answered Next Wave questions

 

 

Guests left for home around 8:30, some to continue the evening together—the mark of a successful gathering. We cleaned up quickly, enjoyed a last few moments as a team and then headed back to Seattle, happily with little traffic to extend what was a long, but really great work day. All of us left, except Susannah, our Corporate Relations Manager, who stayed to camp out at the Point to get an early start the next morning up Mount Washington in the Olympic National Forest. I look forward to her trip report Monday.

 

Beach party at Little Skookum Inlet
Danny Ngan
  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President Emeritus of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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