Tragedy Gives Kids’ Camp Plan New Push — Forest Site Would Serve As Center For At-Risk City Youths

Sometimes tragedy accomplishes what no amount of politicking could.

The drive-by slaying of a Ballard High School student in March could revive a Seattle School Board member’s decade-old dream of transforming a little-used tract of forest land northeast of Issaquah into a youth camp for environmental learning.

For much of the year, the Cleveland Memorial Forest, off Issaquah-Fall City Road, sits empty and padlocked.

Originally purchased for $300 by students from Seattle’s Cleveland High School in 1944 as a living memorial to students killed in World War II, the forest now is worth $10 million to $15 million and includes second-growth forest and a spawning-salmon creek.

There are trails through the woods and a few run-down buildings, but the 131-acre property is hardly used except for occasional school field trips.

For years, Seattle School Board member Ellen Roe has been trying to change that.

She and two Seattle legislators, state Reps. Marlin Appelwick and Ken Jacobsen, have talked off and on for a decade about trying to find the money to turn the forest into an outdoor learning center for local schoolchildren and at-risk youths.

But the idea stalled because there was no money and because of the sheer number of public entities that would have to become involved in the project: the cities and school districts of Seattle and Issaquah, the county and the state.

Then, last March, one bullet fired out the window of a passing car killed 16-year-old Melissa Fernandes. The gang-related drive-by shooting, the first to take place on school grounds in the city, shocked residents and prompted a lot of soul-searching about how to stop youth violence. One of the many phone calls to the school district in the days that followed Fernandes’ death came from Kym Allen, an aide to City Councilwoman Sue Donaldson.

She called School Board member Linda Harris and asked what she could do to help with any anti-violence projects underway in the district. Recalling Roe’s idea for the Cleveland forest, Harris began making phone calls and pulling together people from the city, the county, and the state.

The group has been meeting informally since May and recently chose Ron Snyder, principal of Alternative School No. 1, as project director.

“This could become a great learning opportunity for kids all over the area,” Harris said. After Fernandes was killed, “the whole sense of the community was `We can’t just let this happen.’ Hopefully, this will be one good thing that can come out of that tragedy.”

The plan calls for an environmental learning camp for schoolchildren from the Seattle and Issaquah school districts to get hands-on experience learning about forestry, ecology, conservation, and fish biology. In addition, at-risk youths from the schools, or perhaps juvenile offenders, could be put to work building trails and doing upkeep on the property.

“We’ve got kids who’ve never been in a forest before,” Harris said. “You can see that would be a pretty overwhelming experience.”

No school-district money is available to develop the idea. Instead, the group will compete for grants to get the project started.

Snyder, who will oversee the project, said it may cost about $100,000 to get the program started, then about $125,000 for staff training and $100,000 in operating costs and salaries for a director and a secretary.

To keep it going after the grants expire, Harris and Roe are exploring the idea of a challenge course, which uses ropes suspended above the ground and other obstacles to teach teamwork, leadership and self-esteem. The course would be used by students and rented to corporate groups and others to finance the schools’ use of the property.

The goal is to have the project operating by next spring or summer.

Watching the property fall into disuse has been disappointing to the Cleveland students who originally put up the money to purchase the property, said Byron Coney, a Seattle attorney, and class of 1947 member.

“We do want to see it continued” as a lasting legacy to their classmates who were killed, he said.

Complicating the deal, though, are questions about zoning, the state’s Growth Management Act and a proposed new development nearby called Grand Ridge, which could lead to 2,500 new dwellings southwest of the Cleveland forest.

A preliminary agreement between project developers and King County calls for the owners to set aside more than 2 square miles of land as open space. Some of that area has been designated as wetlands and is fed by the same stream, Canyon Creek, that runs through the school district’s property.

Harris and Roe envision combining that wetlands area with two parcels of undeveloped county land on each side of the Cleveland forest. The county land alone would more than double the size of the proposed learning camp to nearly 300 acres, making it possible to open it up to the public as well as students.

The county currently has no plans to develop its land, said county parks planner Sharon Claussen. It’s too early to know how all the pieces will fit together, but the idea is compatible with the greenbelts and open spaces the county is trying to carve out in East King County, she said.

Jolayne Houtz

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5 Years Later, Still A World Of Threat

When the 1944 yearbook staff at Cleveland High School wrote about “the shattered conditions of the world,” they meant World War II, which had turned their classmates into soldiers, workers or residents of internment camps.

Fifty years later, the 1994 “Aquila” staff alludes to very different forces at work – gangs, violence, poverty – that also threaten to shatter the world graduating seniors now confront.

Celebrating their 50-year high-school reunion, about 45 members of Cleveland’s class of 1944 and their spouses returned to the high school yesterday, many for the first time since graduation, and got an up-close look at how dramatically their school has changed.

Principal Ted Howard said the school struggles to meet the needs of students who have almost nothing in common with students of a half-century ago.

Their school, which had been essentially all-white, now is made up of 72 percent minorities, including 50 percent Asian Americans.

The school has computer labs, its own radio station, computerized databases in the library, drug-and-alcohol counseling, an anger management class, and a bilingual program.

Almost 40 percent of the students speak a language other than English at home, and 43 percent live with only one parent. A dozen street gangs are represented at the school, which has two security officers, Howard said.

“Whoever heard of having AA classes in school? It’s a very different world today,” said alumna Pat Clifford of Seattle. “I’m impressed with how they make do, how they adapt. It’s part of the Cleveland spirit, I think.”

The world her class of 129 graduating seniors entered was focused on the war.

The June 8, 1944, school newspaper, the Cleveland Journal, reminisces about “all the pre-war things we had like our swell Ski Club (and gas) . . . and more than anything we remember the boys who used to roam our halls and now are remembered by all when we look at our (war) service plaque in the main hall.”

Through then-Principal Kenneth Selby, the class helped buy 160 acres of forest near Issaquah as a living memorial for former students killed in World War II.

The paper is sprinkled with ads for war bonds, Boeing jobs “for vital war work” and ads from Pacific Telephone & Telegraph hiring senior girls as operators “to put servicemen in touch with their homes.”

The yearbook from the class’s sophomore year shows eight Japanese-American students in the class. By 1944, they were gone, most of them in internment camps.

The yearbook notes the school’s support for the war in the form of paper and tin salvage drives, bond booths and girls making “fracture pillows” for wounded soldiers.

This year’s yearbook has pages devoted to the Filipino Club, the Chinese Club, and the Technology Club. One girl writes about her love for her “homies” (friends) and her fear that she could lose one “to an argument or unexpected decisions.”

Clifford said most of the changes at the school had been for the better. “We used to sit and memorize dates – how ridiculous in today’s world,” she said.

But she felt saddened by the violence and lack of values she sees in some students today.

“We were innocent then, I guess, but we were taught values like honesty and accountability,” Clifford said. ” . . . You wonder what kind of discipline there is today.”

But some were heartened to see that school spirit still means the same thing for today’s students.

One of the reunion organizers, Audrey Hopkins, visited the school a couple of times this year in preparing for the event and noticed a banner hanging in the hallway:

“Welcome to the friendliest little school in the Western Hemisphere.”

“That much hasn’t changed,” Hopkins noted with satisfaction.

Jolayne Houtz

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Kenneth Selby, School Official, Known For Breadth Of Interests

Kenneth E. Selby, former assistant superintendent of Seattle’s schools during the 1940s, was always into something, his family said.

Mr. Selby died on July 21 in an Everett nursing home of pneumonia. He was 92 years old.

Tree farming, jewelry making, ceramic making, and book writing were just some of the hobbies Mr. Selby tackled after he retired at age 66.

But even then, crafts and horticulture could not distract him from his first love – children.

It was not unusual for the former elementary school principal to have busloads of school kids visit his tree farm for a lesson in raising trees or the history of plants, said his son-in-law Stephen Clark.

Mr. Selby’s tree farm was a family retreat as well as an educational laboratory, said Joan Clark, his daughter.

Picnics, games, camping, and swimming in the lake Mr. Selby made by building a dam across one of the waterways of the farm were among Mrs. Clark’s favorite wilderness activities.

The farm is on Wood’s Creek, about 10 miles east of Everett near Machias.

Mr. Selby was also instrumental in developing the 120-acre Cleveland Memorial Forest near Issaquah, which is owned by Seattle Public Schools.

The land was originally purchased and dedicated to World War II veterans by a senior class at Cleveland High School where Mr. Selby was principal, Stephen Clark said.

“He could do no wrong, everybody loved him,” said Joan Clark.

Mr. Selby also had a flair for poetry and sometimes challenged his students to a battle of verse.

“He could recite poetry by the hour and he used to say he could recite more poems than all of them put together, and he always did,” said Stephen Clark.

Mr. Selby’s habit of memorizing poems became a family tradition when his grandchildren started emulating him at fireside gatherings, Joan Clark said.

Mr. Selby was born Nov. 12, 1899, in St. Paul, Minn., and later moved to Bellingham. He spent the latter part of his life in Seattle.

He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Western Washington University and his master’s degree from the University of Washington.

Mr. Selby remained a strong family man and rarely thought of himself, even after the death of his wife 20 years ago.

A family outing on a rented houseboat was Mr. Selby’s first planned activity after his wife’s funeral.

“You couldn’t find a better father anywhere,” said Joan Clark, who reminisced about the times her father would rock and sing to her whenever she had a cold.

“He had quite a repertoire of songs,” she said.

Mr. Selby is survived by his daughter, four grandsons and seven great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be Friday, July 31, at 10 a.m. at Purdy & Walters at Floral Hills Funeral Home, 409 Filbert Road, Lynnwood.

Penelope M. Carrington

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