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From the ashes, a park takes shape

Pilings remain from the pier building. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Pilings remain from the pier building.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Restoration of the strawberry pier property on Weaver Avenue is planned for next year.

For a former landmark, it may be time for a return to nature.

City officials are hoping a 4.2-acre parcel at the end of Weaver Avenue will transition back to its former state as a wildlife refuge and also serve as a public park. Removal of man-made structures at the former strawberry plant property are tentatively slated for next fall.

“It’s really a top project,” said Peter Namtvedt Best, associate planner with the city. “It will bring back a half acre of estuary and a half acre of riparian forest.”

The site was home to a strawberry processing operation from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The overwater building was converted for commercial and residential use, but burned down in January 1997. Only charred pilings stand out in Eagle Harbor as monuments to the building they once supported.

Proposals were floated as to what to do with the prime waterfront property.

“There was a subdivision proposal before the city acquired it,” Best said. “One of the reasons we ended up with this property is that local neighbors helped push the idea of this property as a public park.”

The Open Space Commission brokered city acquisition of the land in 2004 with the intent of restoring the parcel and its 260 feet of waterfront into an estuary.

The rejuvenation of the tidal habitat will be a boon for local salmon recovery efforts in Eagle Harbor and will also aid birds and otters with perches and feeding grounds.

“Regionally it is recognized as a high quality project,” Best said.

There are funds to back it up. The city has sent a grant request of $300,000 to the Salmon Recovery Fund board, with a decision on funding to come in December.

The Natural Resource Trustee Council has already announced it will match SRF board grants for the construction phase up to $200,000. The SRF board has already put up $77,350 toward the initial $204,000 design and planning phase.

“The awesome thing with the NRDA and SRF funding means the city is not paying anything for the construction phase,” Best said. “So it’s a fantastic cost arrangement for the local citizens.”

The $500,000 construction phase will artificial jetties, pushing back the shoreline to restore an estuary marsh, cleaning a stream that runs through the property and removing half of the paved parking area in the uplands.

Piling removal will be conducted through the Department of Natural Resources’ creosote cleanup project, part of the greater Puget Sound Initiative.

Best will address the Park District board Thursday to discuss progress, with the hope that the planning phase will be wrapped up this winter.

“The stated intent is to transfer the property. The city owns it, but Parks gets it in the end,” Best said.

“But since it was purchased in large part for this restoration work, we’re going to do improvements before we hand it over.”

Although the Park District has not begun designing upland portion of the park, there is likely to be a continuation of the waterfront trail.

Other ideas include a picnic shelter, viewing platform and possibly a footbridge over the stream.

The strawberry parcel was eyed as a park in 2004 when it was appraised at $1.54 million. It was given to the city by Vineyard Lane developer Bill Carruthers in exchange for the 4.7-acre, city-owned parcel next to the Vineyard Lane project.

The City Council approved this exchange in November 2004.

The OSC commented in its 2004 annual report that the strawberry pier land would expand “the community’s usable open space, increase the public’s access to water, and offer the possibility of another park on Eagle Harbor.”

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