PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has a number of projects planned for this year, including moving forward with the first phase of its plans for the Tse-whit-zen village site, said Tribal CEO Michael Peters.
“We feel this year we need to show something to the community,” he told those who attended the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
“We are looking at … doing something this year in order to really get more individuals excited about getting this project off the ground.”
Tse-whit-zen, a Klallam village dating back some 2,700 years, was discovered in 2003 at a Marine Drive site earmarked for a $100 million state graving yard connected with work planned on the Hood Canal Bridge.
Stored at Burke
After artifacts and human remains were discovered, construction was halted and many artifacts were stored at the Burke Museum in Seattle.
Peters said the tribe has wanted to do something with the site, a curation facility for the artifacts, but it has taken some time to figure out exactly what the facility would look like.
“There’s been a lot of debate between the tribe in what should be done there,” he said. “Everybody knows something needs to happen there.”
He said the discussion has been difficult to have because some tribal members feel so deeply about Tse-whit-zen they become “paralyzed” and overcome with tears when the topic is brought up.
An impasse over the 2006 Tse-whit-zen settlement agreement held up progress on the project in 2012, though it can still move forward, Peters said.
“It was just more complicated at that time,” he said.
He said the issue was around a piece of land adjacent to Marine Drive, which he called a historical site of high prominence for the tribe. The tribe’s plan is to eventually attain trust status for the land.
“It is ultimately one of the things the tribe wants to do, and we will accomplish that at some point,” Peters said. “The most important piece at this time is having a concrete plan in what we’re going to do there.”
The plan now is to create a facility with three zones. The first would be open to the public and offer a chance to hear stories and learn about the site, he said.
The second zone would be open for guided tours and the third zone would be closed to the public. It would be used for tribal members and ceremonial purposes.
Creation of that first public area is set to begin this summer, Peters said. Exactly what that will look like hasn’t yet been decided, but the tribe is working with several concepts, he said. There is not yet a timeline for when the tribe would be finished with the project, he said.
As the tribe moves forward with its plans for Tse-whit-zen, it is also eyeing several other projects.
Among those projects is improvements to Lower Elwha Food and Fuel at the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and Dry Creek Road. Improvements would expand the deli and expand truck service.
Within the next six months, the tribe plans to add another tank and more pumps exclusively for trucks to “intercept those trucks before they head down Tumwater Hill,” Peters said.
The tribe has yet to decide what to do with the rest of the 17-acre property but is still “entertaining ideas,” he said.
The tribe is in the process of building another health facility that includes counseling services to a location adjacent to the Lower Elwha Health Clinic off Highway 101. Present counseling services would be moved from the east side of Port Angeles.
The tribe will break ground on the 7,000-square-foot building Feb. 27, Peters said. That project is expected to be finished before September.
He also announced the tribe has been awarded a $3.8 million grant to build a Head Start and early Head Start building.
Sixty children are in the program now and the building is beyond capacity, he said.
“They are bulging at the edges,” he said.
Day care facility
The tribe also has made a commitment to fund building a day care adjacent to the Head Start facility.
The tribe’s goal is to break ground in late spring or early summer after updating some old construction plans up to code, Peters said.
The tribe also is using a state Recreation and Conservation Office grant to fund building a park west of the tribal center.
It wouldn’t be a full-sized soccer or football field and would double as a Little League or softball field.
The infield would be turf, allowing it to be an all-season field, Peters said. It’s expected to open early summer.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.