Meigs Farm, meet Meigs Park

Connie Waddinton (left) and Lee Cross scan the skies for birds on the historical Meigs Farm property near Wardwell Road. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Connie Waddinton (left) and Lee Cross scan the skies for birds on the historical Meigs Farm property near Wardwell Road.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

A land deal would create a quiet, 92-acre wetland preserve in the public park fold.

Just off the highway, an old claw-foot tub slumbers in the grass.

Fittingly, the land on which it rests could one day be a spa. For now, though, 25 acres of dewy blades, mossy trees and mirror ponds of Meigs Farm may have to settle for being a park.

“This really is a special place,” said Open Space commissioner Connie Waddington, as she watched fallen leaves get their own spa treatment from a pond on the Cool property. “(Open Space commissioner) Dave Shorrett has joked that the biggest bass on Bainbridge are in these waters.”

So too, said Gale Cool, the land’s current owner, is the key to rejuvenation.

“That water’s been brewing for 18,000 years,” he said, reflecting on his own dips its sulfate-rich pools. “I’d really like to see it leased to nonprofit so people could bathe there.”

Bathing will have to wait, at least until the City Council decides on Wednesday whether to buy the land for addition to Meigs Park.

The Open Space Commission has recommended the city purchase the $1.725 million property, located on the west side of state Route 305, just north of Wardwell Road.

It’s divided into two parcels. The first, Cool’s Meigs Farm property, is a 20-acre refuge that’s home to the island’s biggest wetland and the largest ledum bog in the state. The second, known as the Lowery property, is five acres of similar terrain found just to the south.

Together the land would be added to 67 existing acres of Meigs Park, which is owned by the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park District.

Access is limited – visitors can park at Koura Road, the property’s northern boundary, or at a small turnoff just north of Wardwell Road.

Still, Cool thinks it could be of great benefit to the community, both as a walking area and, hopefully at some point, a spa.

He had planned to turn it into the latter himself, before shifting his focus to other projects. But the idea, he said, is still viable.

“I’m done with the property ecologically,” he said. “It took years to get it into the condition it’s in now.”

As of now the land is boggy, but laced with intermittent trails. Waddington said there are plenty of opportunities for non-motorized connections.

Through the years it has seen myriad uses – it was a dairy farm until the 1950s – as evidenced by the sagging structures that adorn it.

When Cool abandoned his own plans for the spa, he approached the city about buying the land. Along with a spa, he would like to see its trails improved and the addition of native vegetation.

He expressed some dismay over prior attempts to improve the property that he said were hampered by the city.

Four years ago he applied for a permit to build a restroom, but was denied. Burning permits, which he needed to introduce a native flower into the landscape, also were denied.

A well on the land, tapped into a deep aquifer from which the city and the county draw water, also is a key component.

“They have exploited it to a very nearly dangerous level,” he said of the water supply. “But they seem to have shown some restraint over the past year.”

With so much water and so much space, Waddington hopes the city will come through on the purchase.

“We could have some great water polo games here,” she joked, overlooking the pond. “It’s such a beautiful spot.”

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