Ben Sanford, founder and director of Tribal Edge. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Wilderness training facility owner worried by Jamestown S’Klallam road project

BLYN — The founder of a wilderness training facility believes Tribal Edge is threatened by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Sophus-Corriea Loop Road project.

Ben Sanford has operated what he calls “primal arts” training near 7 Cedars Casino since 2002, though the grand opening was in 2008.

He is concerned that traffic on the service road would change the feeling of his property and disrupt some of the programs he operates.

“I’m not saying don’t build it,” Sanford said, adding that he actually supports the tribe’s plan for a resort. “We totally support it.”

Sanford said about 100 people use the property each year, many of whom are frequent students at Tribal Edge.

Tribal Chairman Ron Allen said the tribe could have planned the road closer to Sanford’s property but chose the “middle option.”

Construction is expected to start in early spring and could go on for about six months, Allen said.

The tribe is moving forward with its long-proposed resort and anticipates having the first of three hotel towers finished before summer of 2020.

The first phase of development includes a five-story tower that will house the hotel lobby and 100 rooms, 25 on each floor above the lobby.

The road would act as a service road to the resort.

Allen said the road would improve access to Sanford’s property and increase property values.

“In all fairness, if something happened and he had a fire, we’re providing better access for firefighters,” Allen said.

Traffic would be limited on the road, too, Allen said. It would likely be limited to service trucks to the resort, typically using the road on weekdays.

Allen said guests would continue to enter through the front entrance on U.S. Highway 101.

“If he thinks we’re going to move a quarter-mile away, forget about it,” Allen said. “Just because he has a survival program, he doesn’t want anyone around.

“You’ve got neighbors.”

Allen said the tribe offered to buy Sanford’s property to help him relocate to somewhere more remote.

But Sanford said he and his students have a connection to the land that they have spent the past several years on.

“We’re strangely connected to this place,” he said. “It has become a sacred place, a powerful place.

“We turn off cellphones, and we get to sit still and learn from nature.”

Sanford said the sound of trucks driving by, even if limited, would disrupt the programs at Tribal Edge.

He said he operates programs on awareness, nature connection, healing, caretaking of the earth and martial arts training at the site.

He also has rite-of-passage programs and offers vision quests, where students fast for four days sitting next to a tree “trying to find out more about yourself,” he said.

“A lot of our training … is quiet, subtle and it’s gentle,” Sanford said. “We do a lot of stuff that changes people’s lives.”

But the tribe has the right to build a road on tribal property, Allen said.

The entire project will be on tribal land, though the tribe is asking Clallam County to vacate an easement and close the section of road where Corriea Road meets Highway 101.

Allen called that intersection dangerous and said many people, including Sanford, cut through the casino parking lot to avoid the intersection.

Sanford said he knows he won’t be able to stop the tribe from moving forward with the road and that he had known for years the tribe planned to develop the area near his property.

“We can only hope to work into their plan,” Sanford said. “I do support them. I appreciate our local tribes.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

 

Ben Sanford, founder and director of Tribal Edge, shows where he hoped the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe would build its new road. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Alex Tienda of Sequim, left, and Michael Lazzari of Sequim run through an Eskrima drill at Tribal Edge. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)