Homesteader’s legacy: 10 acres near Olalla figure in DNR land swap

In 1922, an Olalla farmer named George Harper died without a will, leaving a horse, a wagon, some 250 chickens, and 10 acres of land next to what is now State Route 16.

Since no relatives could be found, Harper’s estate went to the State of Washington, in a legal process known as escheat. The state hung onto it for more than 90 years, occasionally granting a brush-picking lease.

Now George Harper’s homestead has become part of a land swap with a Gig Harbor developer that will make it easier for users to get in and out of Green Mountain State Forest, west of Bremerton.

The Board of Natural Resources approved the swap last week, as part of a series of land deals that that added about 430 acres to the holdings of the Department of Natural Resources..

The state traded the land near Olalla for 33 acres adjacent to the Green Mountain forest formerly owned by Tallman LLC, a company DNR said is registered to a longtime Gig Harbor developer, James Tallman, and his wife, Dian. The parcel is along the primary road to access the northern end of Green Mountain State Forest, and will provide increased access to the forest and its resources.

State land commissioner Hilary Franz said such swaps are part of a longtime DNR strategy of consolidating its holdings.

“By putting our lands into bigger blocks — instead of smaller, disconnected parcels — they are easier to manage, generate more money for our schools, and provide richer recreational opportunities,” Franz said.

The Green Mountain Forest is a “working forest,” meaning timber is harvested there and sold to help finance the state’s schools. But it is also open to recreational users, with 16 miles of trail, camping and picnic areas.

In a similar deal, DNR will receive a 61-acre parcel along U.S. Highway 101 just east of Port Angeles in exchange for an isolated 311-acre parcel north of Aberdeen. DNR will also purchase a 630-acre parcel of land northwest of Lake Cavanaugh in Skagit County from Weyerhaeuser for $1.65 million. The land will connect two currently separated pieces of DNR-managed land there, and it has access via a county road.

The Olalla parcel Tallman LLC will receive in the swap is zoned “rural residential” by Kitsap County.