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Internment memorial gets under way with ceremony Thursday

The $5 million project will mark the wartime exclusion of Japanese Americans.

Having raised almost half of the $5 million needed for the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial, the World War II Nikkei Internment and Exclusion Memorial Committee is ready to dedicate the site and begin construction.

A blessing and dedication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the site of the former Eagledale ferry landing. The landing is at the end of Taylor Avenue on the south side of Eagle Harbor, across the harbor from the Winslow ferry dock.

“I like to stress that we’re in a race against time,” said Clarence Moriwaki, chair of the memorial committee. “We want to get this project – all the way to the final development of the interpretive center – built before many of the people that we’re trying to honor leave us.

“We want them to be there to cut that ribbon. We are in that race against time.”

The dedication date marks the 64th anniversary of the first exclusion of Japanese Americans during World War II. Island residents generally welcomed the returning Japanese Americans back into the community, having taken care of their property while they were interned and spoke out against how they were treated.

“Bainbridge Island was the true anomaly after the war,” Moriwaki said.

The first stage of work for the “Nidoto Nai Yoni – Let It Not Happen Again” memorial will commence on April 3.

The National Parks Service has completed a two-year study that could lead to the memorial becoming a satellite unit of the National Parks System. To date, the committee has raised more than $2.1 million: $1.1 million for development and $1 million for land.

Because parking at the site is limited, carpooling is encouraged. The school district will provide free bus service directly to the site.

One bus will leave at 9:25 a.m. from the Winslow ferry terminal for passengers aboard the 8:45 a.m. sailing from Seattle. A second will transport park-and-ride drivers from the lower parking lot of St. Barnabas Church on Wyatt Way.

The buses will return attendees to the ferry terminal and the park-and-ride lot beginning at 11:15 a.m.

Once work on the site begins, Taylor Avenue will not be acccessible until it is completed. Visitors to Pritchard Park should enter another way, such as off Eagle Harbor Drive. The city has plans to allow access through Creosote Road.

“When it’s done, it’s going to be better than (people) ever dreamed,” said Moriwaki.

The memorial site will include 24 additional parking spaces, roads, access to the park and a bus drop-off – the basic infrastructures for the rest of the project. The second phase will feature the story wall, designs for which are being finalized for submission to the city.

Everything else – entry gates, the information pavilion and the memorial walk – is expected to be completed in September.

The committee’s next order of business is saving plants on the site.

A work party on April 1 will salvage some of the plants before construction starts. Volunteers will meet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to dig ferns from the proposed roadway and upper parking lot area.

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