As 2018 comes to an end, Vashon Forest Stewards is still looking for new land for its work, as it needs to leave its longtime home west of Sawbones by June.
Managing Director David Warren has been looking for a new location for more than a year, but his search is continuing while time is growing short. Businesses need certainty, he said earlier this week, stating that if he cannot find a sufficient parcel soon, the Vashon Forest Stewards will begin moving and selling everything by March or April.
“We are knocking on an awful lot of doors,” he said about the search process.
Vashon Forest Stewards needs 2 to 5 acres of land — any zoning will do — for sale or lease for the nonprofit forestry business. Warren said the land will need to be flat with good access and with enough room that work at the site won’t bother neighbors. A central location on the island would be best; electricity will be necessary.
The Vashon Forest Stewards, currently located at 18815 103rd Ave. SW, have been milling island trees into local lumber at their current site for 15 years. They mill, kiln dry and finish wood for flooring, paneling, trim, posts and beams, siding, live edge slabs and other custom orders.
While Vashon Forest Stewards is in transition, Warren said the organization reached a significant milestone this summer. It became FSC-Certified. The initials stand for Forest Stewardship Council, and the distinction is the highest international certification for sustainably managed forests and lumber, Warren said. He noted that green building programs, such as Built Green, LEED and The Living Building Challenge all prioritize FSC lumber.
On Vashon, Island Center Forest and Camp Sealth have become FSC-certified in recent years, Warren said. This means that the forests are sustainably managed in three ways: ecologically — maintaining forest cover and preserving their natural functions as a forest, such as wildlife habitat and aquifer recharge; economically — the owner and loggers enough money from the forest; and socially — the owner, neighbors and community members are all pleased with the results of the forest practices.
For a mill to become FSC certified, Warren said, it must use logs from FSC-certified forests. He noted the stewards’ new certification is significant.
“For the first time, wood is grown and milled in King County that is FSC certified,” he said.
He added that for many years, “green” builders have debated whether it is better to use lumber from a local forest and mill that have “earth-friendly” practices but are not FSC certified or to buy FSC-certified lumber that comes from out-of-state, or even from across the United States. Now, with two forests on the island and the mill all FSC certified, Warren said area builders would not have to make that choice.
Both Camp Sealth and Island Center Forest are slated for thinnings in the near future, and Vashon Forest Stewards hope to mill some of the logs from either job.
Warren noted the Vashon Forest Stewards does hundreds of jobs a year and has several lined up. Some of its most visible work is the deck at the Hardware Store Restaurant, milled from trees thinned from Agren Park; live-edge tables at Vashon Center for the Arts, Vashon Brewing’s Community Pub, and the Wild Mermaid, which opened at the north end just this week.
“There is a lot of flooring and siding that we cut and nobody sees, but it enriches island homes and businesses,” he added.
But if the Vashon Forest Stewards cannot find suitable land on Vashon, their work as a community mill will end.
The need to relocate was a byproduct of a transaction King County undertook in 2016, when it acquired the Mukai Barreling Plant and its 2 acres from Frank Zellerhoff Jr. That transaction included a land swap. Vashon Forest Stewards had been renting 5 acres at their current location from King County since 2004. But in the swap, King County gave that land to Zellerhoff and assumed ownership of the historic Fruit Barreling Plant, which it is leasing to the Friends of Mukai. With King County assistance, Vashon Forest Stewards have been leasing the property they are on from Zellerhoff. That assistance — half of the $1,200 per month rent — will end in June, Warren said, adding that Zellerhoff wants the group to move at the end of the lease period.
For more information about Vashon Forest Stewards, contact Warren at 206-295 6670, email Vashonforests@gmail.com or see VashonForestStewards.org.