A New Program Center for our Kitsap Branch

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, learn about the Kitsap Branch's new program center.
Jerry Logan Jerry Logan
Kitsap Mountaineers Branch Chair
March 30, 2019
A New Program Center for our Kitsap Branch

A revamped building in Bremerton is set to transform how The Mountaineers Kitsap Branch teaches and trains students. But before we get too far into the future, the story of our new home warrants a look at the past.

Volunteers built the Westgate Fire Station more than five decades ago, and for over 30 years members of Olympic Mountain Rescue (OMR) stored equipment there. This summer, OMR inherited the building, providing the group with space to store their rescue truck and equipment and host training sessions. OMR’s ownership also entails an exciting new partnership with our branch: We’re happy to announce that we’re working together to create a center designed to advance mountaineering and mountain rescue!

Our two mountaineering organizations have long histories in the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. OMR is one of the eight Washington State mountain rescue organizations formed in 1957. These new groups grew out of the Seattle Mountain Rescue Council, a group started by Mountaineers members in 1939 and officially established in 1948. For many years before that, Mountaineers played a key role in the initial exploration of the Olympics. According to The Mountaineers: A History, our first summer outing in 1907 – led by Asahel Curtis, Montelius Price, and Cora Smith Eaton – took sixty-five Mountaineers into the heart of the Olympic Mountains. Nearly a century later in 2003, we formed the Kitsap Branch.

I am the current Branch Chair of the Kitsap Mountaineers and a member of OMR. Early in 2018, the OMR President informed its membership of the opportunity for OMR to take over management of the building. While OMR was studying this proposal, I was elected Branch Chair.

At the time, most of our branch’s lectures and workshops were held at the Kitsap Cabin, a small log building that shares property with the Kitsap Forest Theater. We were cramming 24 basic mountaineering students and a dozen instructors into a cabin without climate control, with bathrooms located in an outbuilding hundreds of yards away. Needless to say, the conditions were not optimal for high-quality training. 

Knowing that OMR would likely gain control of the Westgate Fire Hall, I proposed that we pursue a partnership to create a “program center-lite.” After the building was transferred, we signed a lease to use part of the building for our course and activities!

This comes at a perfect time for the Kitsap Mountaineers. Our branch is growing, and for the first time in a long while all our officer positions are filled with incumbents. Most of our new leaders are women, and all of our leaders are energizing us with tremendous new ideas. We’re excited to provide a better educational experience to the students in our climbing, navigation, and scrambling courses.

OMR recently completed an extensive renovation of the fire hall and renamed it the Harold Brooks Community Center in honor of the long-time leader of the Westgate Volunteers. Our branch has also contributed to improving the space. Led by our 2018 volunteer of the year Steve Anderson, we installed a number of bolted anchors for instruction. We plan to build climbing walls, and we will design the rappel ledge so that OMR can also use it to practice rescues. A number of Mountaineers are also part of OMR, so sharing this facility will allow both groups to benefit from improved climbing and rigging training.

The benefits of the facility are already evident. Our students now have a place to practice skills like belay escape and crevasse rescue while staying dry and warm! The building is also much closer to the Bremerton ferry terminal, providing easier access for our students that come from Seattle – a not insignificant portion of our class.

We hope the new program center will encourage more people to become members of The Mountaineers and join Olympic Mountain Rescue. I am grateful for all of the support we’ve received throughout this endeavor, and I look forward to seeing how this new facility will help us introduce more people to the outdoors.

 This article originally appeared in our Spring 2019 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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