Admiral’s email sheds light on Navy’s trail concerns

An email released late last week by the City of Bremerton sheds some more light on the U.S. Navy’s decision to put a stop to the Sinclair Inlet Trail Project.

“Unfortunately, our review indicates that the project under the current construct would not be supportable based on potential negative impact on Navy operations, railway operations and maintenance, Navy real estate policy, and safety concerns,” wrote Rear Admiral Mark Rich, then Commander of Navy Region Northwest.

Following a public records request, the city originally said it had no responsive documents, but then discovered the email last Friday. Mayor Patty Lent also clarified that she hand delivered a letter, not written by her but by a third party, to Rich and also left him with various planning documents related to the project for him and his staff to review.

In his email response, Rich also told Lent that any decision on the trail would likely be above his pay grade.

“I must also let you know in my judgment, under most conceivable constructs, the ultimate Navy approval for this project would likely be above my level (likely Assistant Secretary of the Navy) due to the Real Property governance requirements and I foresee significant challenges in obtaining that approval,” Rich wrote. “Not that we won’t try.”

Donald L. Larson, of the non-profit Kitsap Trees & Shoreline Association, wrote a letter to Lent July 1 thanking her for trying to move the project forward.

“I am so sorry to read that the U.S. Navy is not currently receptive to the shoreline trail idea, for reasons outlined before, but we still believe it will be primarily weekday PSNS & IMF bicycle commuters who will benefit and keep a watchful eye on the trail, just as they do at work,” Larson wrote. “The trail route could easily be blocked for the very limited rarely used train traffic to and from PSNS & IMF shipyard.”

Larson described the trail as a win-win for the community, Puget Sound marine life, the shipyards’ workers and bicycle commuters and sailors.

“We sincerely appreciate your support and bright optimist attitude, ‘Where there is a will there is a way to resolve the problems/issues’ — and that the Sinclair Inlet trail idea can be/will be revived when the Navy begins a joint land-use planning process with Kitsap Government leaders in the coming years (or before!),” Larson wrote to the mayor.


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