News

WSU will remove buildings from forest

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Washington State University will remove two abandoned and burned structures from the Demonstration Forest.

John Vodopich, director of planning and community development, said the university contacted the city April 3 agreeing to remove the structures.

City officials contacted WSU representatives following a March 9 fire that destroyed an abandoned A-frame building. East Pierce Fire and Rescue and the Bonney Lake Police Department are investigating the fire as arson.

Police Chief Mike Mitchell and Vodopich met with WSU representative John Hardesty March 12.

The chief talked about WSU erecting a fence along the forest behind Regal Cinema and Fred Meyer.

Vodopich stated the burned building along with a modular structure needed to be taken down for safety reasons.

Following the meeting, Mayor Neil Johnson talked by phone with Mel Taylor, WSU's executive director of real estate, about the problems in the forest. Johnson also sent a letter to Taylor and WSU officials asking that the forest be opened again for public use.

Johnson stated in the letter the crime problems in the forest were fewer when it was open to the public.

He noted citizens were good stewards of the nearly 150-acre area and did voluntary clean-ups in the forest.

Johnson also requested WSU place a fence behind the cinema and Fred Meyer.

Crime has been an ongoing problem, with everything from juveniles sneaking into the area for parties to serious criminal activity.

City officials said it was probably not possible to force WSU to erect a fence around the forest.

Councilman Dave King said by phone shortly after the March 9 fire that opening the forest might not solve the crime problems.

“Many of the problems in the forest happen at night,” King said. “Citizens believe (allowing) walking during the day will help. I'm not sure that is right.”

The city has been negotiating with WSU and Quadrant Homes concerning development of the land.

“I think Mayor Johnson is working diligently and we are going to arrive at a solution,” King said. “I hope it is soon enough.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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