Keta Obstructs Sound of Music at Kitsap Forest Theater

In a disappointing move, Keta Legacy Foundation took steps this week to restrict access to the Kitsap Forest Theater, which may force The Mountaineers to cancel upcoming productions of The Sound of Music. The Mountaineers have filed a motion in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) in an attempt to regain needed access to the theater. We regret having to share this sad news with our community.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
Mountaineers CEO
May 19, 2023
Keta Obstructs Sound of Music at Kitsap Forest Theater
The Mountaineers Kitsap Forest Theater.

Updated February 16, 2024: The final piece of litigation between The Mountaineers and Keta Legacy Foundation has been formally settled out of court this week. LEARN MORE.

In a disappointing move, Keta Legacy Foundation took steps this week to restrict access to the Kitsap Forest Theater, which may force The Mountaineers to cancel upcoming productions of The Sound of Music. On May 17, just days before final rehearsals and set-building work for opening night of The Sound of Music, Keta locked The Mountaineers Players out from the backstage area at the Theater. This area has been continually accessed by The Mountaineers for nearly 40 years over easements crossing several parcels of property and the Rhododendron Preserve. Keta also barred access to a parking area that is essential to accommodate guests – particularly elderly guests and those with disabilities. Keta has been aware, and was again reminded of, the vital importance of this access and the troubling impact its restriction would have on persons with limited mobility, as well as productions as a whole.

In response to these actions, The Mountaineers filed a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) in attempt to regain access needed to proceed with the 100th anniversary celebration at the theater. Unless the court moves quickly, or Keta reverses its decision to obstruct the performances, we may have to cancel the May 28 and 29 shows and potentially the entire season.

More than 1,500 tickets have already been sold for this season’s performances, and we are deeply saddened at this development.

Please know that we will continue actively working to address Keta’s lock-out so that guests can enjoy the remaining scheduled shows and join us in celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kitsap Forest Theater. We will update the community as we have more information.


When The Mountaineers donated the Rhododendron Preserve land to Keta (then called the Mountaineers Foundation) in 1985, the agreement included perpetual access to the land for historical uses such as the theater, camps, and other activities. This was intended to preserve historical uses, as Theater performances had been staged at the property for more than sixty years. The parties agreed at the time that the agreement was intended to last forever.

To stage productions at Kitsap Forest Theater, having vehicle access across the easement is imperative. We move sets, props, costumes, and supplies to and from the theater by vehicle, since moving these items down the steep, wooded trail by foot would be impractical. More importantly, guests, crew, and performers with disabilities are only able to safely access the theater by vehicle. Vehicle access is also the only safe egress for first responders and is necessary in the event anyone has a medical emergency during a show. In light of these requirements, The Mountaineers are unable to stage performances without vehicle access to the backstage area of the Theater, which is accessible by vehicle along a separate road. To do otherwise would be counter to our commitment to being an inclusive community, and potentially put guests, crew and performers at risk.

Keta’s decision to lock The Mountaineers out of the Rhododendron Preserve relates to a 2019 lawsuit that Keta filed against The Mountaineers. Keta had continued to use the name “Mountaineers Foundation” for fundraising purposes, even after they had changed their name to Keta Legacy Foundation. We requested that they cease using our name because we were concerned that their behavior was creating confusion with donors. Keta’s lawsuit demanded that the court allow it to continue using our name, and instead prohibit us from using our own name in connection with charitable fundraising activities. Just weeks after filing the lawsuit, Keta took the additional step of attempting to terminate the 1985 agreement that assured historical uses of the property that The Mountaineers transferred to them.

We were dismayed by their actions and have fought to defend our interests and the interests of our donors and members. But simultaneously, we have sought to find a common-sense solution to resolve the dispute.

We presented Keta with a generous settlement offer in March 2021, which would have allowed both organizations to put this dispute behind us. Sadly, Keta chose to not provide a meaningful response, never responded with their own proposal to our settlement offer, and ultimately declined to meet with us, and so we formally withdrew our offer.


In December 2021, we filed a motion with the court to dismiss Keta’s claims. In February of 2023, the court ruled that The Mountaineers does own the trademarks to our name and marks and affirmed our ability to use them for charitable fundraising purposes. We never doubted this fact, but were pleased to have the court affirm our position and throw out Keta’s baseless claims.

The court did not rule on whether Keta may continue using The Mountaineers name, so the facts on that issue remain disputed and will go to trial.

Finally, the court requested more information about the easement dispute in Kitsap from both The Mountaineers and Keta. We complied with the court’s request and submitted supplemental information in March of this year.

Last summer, The Mountaineers and Keta signed a short-term agreement ensuring that both organizations would have access to one another’s property. For example, The Mountaineers allowed Keta to stage construction materials and equipment on its land for a restoration project in Hidden Valley and Keta agreed to allow The Mountaineers to continue using the Preserve as it had for many decades. That agreement seemed to work well for both organizations. It allowed us to be good neighbors and support one another’s missions, while acknowledging that we still had open legal issues, so we attempted to renew it for 2023.

We were very discouraged when Keta notified us a few days ago that they had no interest in putting another short-term access agreement in place. The very next day, Keta installed new locking devices on the gates we use to access the theater.

Trying to keep The Sound of Music on track and holding out hope we could find a common-sense solution for the open issues, we offered to schedule a confidential meeting facilitated by a third-party mediator. Despite Keta’s past claims about wanting to engage in good faith negotiations, it failed to accept our offer.


Because of Keta’s actions, we may have to cancel opening weekend shows of The Sound of Music on May 28 and 29, and possibly additional showings. We are seeking intervention from the court that will allow the remaining shows to continue as planned and will share an update with our community when we have more information.

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Shawn O'Neill
Shawn O'Neill says:
May 19, 2023 07:01 PM

Very sad and disappointing indeed - praying for a peaceful resolution, a softening of heart from Keta

Michael Pollowitz
Michael Pollowitz says:
May 19, 2023 09:59 PM

Are there things that the membership can do that might help the situation like contacting Keta or local legislators?

Tom Vogl
Tom Vogl says:
May 20, 2023 08:10 AM

Unfortunately, it'll come down to whether the court to sides with our motion or Keta reverses its decision. We're hopeful that'll be the case so the opening weekend of The Sound of Music can continue as scheduled.

Tricia Belcastro
Tricia Belcastro says:
May 20, 2023 10:45 AM

I remember when this all started, I thought it had been resolved. So, what is Keta's end game? Why are they doing this? What benefit was it for The Mountaineers to spin off them as a group in the first place? What can we do to help?

Carry Porter
Carry Porter says:
May 23, 2023 09:42 AM

If you search for "keta legacy foundation" on this site, you'll find several articles on the history of the two organizations, including some background on why The Mountaineers created The Mountaineers Foundation (which subsequently became the Keta Legacy Foundation).

Marilyn Miller
Marilyn Miller says:
May 20, 2023 11:24 AM

I'd like to know the answers to Tricia Belcastro's questions!

Joanne Schuett-Hames
Joanne Schuett-Hames says:
May 20, 2023 11:29 AM

My family has enjoyed the Forest Theatre and Rhododendron Preserve going almost back to the early days. I appreciate that the Mountaineers have handled this situation kindly and respectfully. I encourage maintaining those qualities but no longer working to allow the "Keta" foundation to have any oversight or ownership of the Rhododendron Preserve/ Forest Theatre/or other aspects of the Mountaineer's Foundation.

Sue Ellen White
Sue Ellen White says:
May 21, 2023 02:27 PM

This is quite confusing. Perhaps more background would be helpful. It seems some sort of bad familial dispute, given the less-than-clear background.
"Behavior," "lock-outs," "terminations," and lawsuits all sound ugly and not becoming to either organization.
Why did Keta originally separate from the Mountaineers?
Was mediation used at any time during this long disagreement?
What is behind the bad blood? Would mediation or a reconciliation process now be considered?
More information might be helpful as members decide if they want to be associated with this type of thing.

Carry Porter
Carry Porter says:
May 23, 2023 09:43 AM

If you search for "keta legacy foundation" on this site, you'll find several articles on the history of the two organizations, including some background on why The Mountaineers created The Mountaineers Foundation (which subsequently became the Keta Legacy Foundation) and what happened when Keta Legacy Foundation decided to sue The Mountaineers.

Tyler Freeman
Tyler Freeman says:
May 26, 2023 07:37 PM

If you read up on Ketas own blogs it sounds like the Mountaineers have not been careful to protect the area but off trail trampling has occurred

Gala Lindvall
Gala Lindvall says:
Jun 01, 2023 07:16 PM

Tyler, the Mountaineers Players have taken care of this property for 100 years, and treat it respectfully and with awe. The property that the road is on is not part of the pristine preserve, it has been a road forever. There are a lot of misrepresentations on the Keta website about The Mountaineers. It is very sad.