Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman outlines Salish Village vision for old Rayonier mill site

PORT ANGELES — W. Ron Allen packs more optimism into a lunchtime talk than most people hear in a year.

In his Thursday presentation to the Kiwanis Club of Port Angeles, the chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe painted a vivid picture of the Salish Village: a green-built development of shops, restaurants, a hotel, homes and an intertribal heritage center proposed for the former Rayonier mill site on the Port Angeles waterfront.

As Allen sees it, cleanup plans for the Rayonier site have dragged on too long, and it’s high time for the Jamestown and Lower Elwha tribes, the city and the state of Washington, which is holding Rayonier Corp. liable for site restoration, to form a partnership.

Allen told the Kiwanians he is engaged in talks with all of those entities about his tribe acquiring the property.

“We want to lay out a game plan to aggressively move forward,” he said. “Hopefully we can see something happen within the next year.”

The Rayonier site, 75 polluted acres that have lain like a thorn in Port Angeles’ side for more than a decade, can be transformed for the betterment of all that surrounds it, Allen believes.

In the noon presentation at the North Olympic Skills Center, Allen urged his audience to think ahead in terms of generations — “for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

What the Rayonier site needs now, he said, are multiple partners who share a vision, one that will benefit Port Angeles as well as the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe and the Jamestown tribe.

Allen believes he has that vision.

Working with architects Mike Gentry and Stuart Bonney, he has designed a “living village,” with a restored pier, a densely built, mixed-use commercial and residential center, a hotel with conference space and shopping, dining and cultural attractions much like those in Victoria.

Look at that city’s Royal British Columbia Museum, Allen said, adding that Port Angeles could have its own version, a Northwest native heritage center surrounded by an attractive cultural district — all on the old mill site.

The Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, for its part, has long envisioned its own waterfront museum in Port Angeles.

It is also deeply concerned with the cleanup of heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs and other contaminants left by Rayonier’s pulp mill, which operated at the end of Ennis Street for 68 years before shutting down in 1997.

The Lower Elwha tribe is a partner in the cleanup with Rayonier, which still owns the property, and the state Department of Ecology; the property has been an Ecology cleanup site since 2000. The state and Rayonier have agreed to have a plan in place in 2013.

The property lies east of the Tse-whit-zen village site on Marine Drive where thousands of artifacts, evidence of the Lower Elwha tribe’s ancient civilization here, were unearthed earlier this decade.

But “these are Klallam — S’Klallam sites,” and not just Lower Elwha land, Allen said. The Jamestown and Lower Elwha “have mutual interests” in Port Angeles.

And, he emphasized, “we can coexist.”

People from all over the world come through Port Angeles, and those visitors “are of high interest to us,” Allen said.

This city could do more to show off its Native American history and culture, he said.

The Salish Village, with its commercial, residential and cultural elements, can complement downtown and the rest of Port Angeles, Allen believes.

Thursday, coincidentally, was a historic day for Allen and the Jamestown S’Klallam: Feb. 10 was the 30th anniversary of federal recognition of the tribe.

The newly recognized Jamestown S’Klallam tribe started out with a $25,000 federal grant, Allen recalled. A staff of two set up an office in Sequim’s Boardwalk Square in 1981.

Today Allen, CEO for the past 29 years, oversees an annual budget of nearly $25 million in tribal enterprises — from the 7 Cedars Casino and The Cedars at Dungeness golf course to the Longhouse Market and JKT Development Inc. — that employ some 650.

The new Jamestown medical clinic was finished last year in the city of Sequim, the tribe has plans to expand its casino complex in Blyn this spring — and Allen is looking farther west, and farther into the future.

“Port Angeles has always been a diamond in the rough. Always,” he said. “Now we’re redefining ourselves.”

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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