Shoreline creeping closer to Fort Ward barracks

The bluff at Fort Ward is eroding toward the aging barracks. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
The bluff at Fort Ward is eroding toward the aging barracks.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Bainbridge Island’s Fort Ward housed soldiers for decades, and through multiple wars, before it was converted into a park.

Now it faces a new battle — with nature.

Erosion is creeping inland toward the aging barracks that overlook the shore, particularly those at the northwestern end of the park.

“That corner was about 14 feet from the bank four months ago,” said Terry Lande, executive director with the Metro Park & Recreation District.

“The king tide we had in December beat up that area real good, now it’s at about 10 feet,” he said. “We lost four feet in a week.”

Lande brought the issue to the parks board at a recent meeting. He noted that it is difficult to gauge the erosion that the park will experience in the coming years.

Lande presented the board with a few preliminary options, but noted that a public process will be necessary in order to ultimately decide what to do with the two buildings. One option was to move the building closest to the eroding bluff. Another would be to entirely remove the northwestern most corner of the building.

The park district estimates that it would cost between $80,000 to $100,000 to move the building. If officials decide to move the smaller adjacent building as well, it would cost an additional $26,000.

Lande said he has only brought the matter up to make the park board aware of the erosion, however, and something will have to be done eventually. He plans to return to the board in two months with suggestions on what to do about Fort Ward.

Other solutions could range from a bulkhead — though unlikely — to morphing the area into a more picnic friendly park.

Lande is open to ideas and has already heard plenty  from islanders.

“We’ve had people say you can make them into a bed-and-breakfast, or you can have it become a picnic shelter area, where the new shelter would have a look of the old barracks,” he said.

Whatever is to be done about Fort Ward, one thing is clear: It won’t be happening for at least two years. The parks district has not currently budgeted any funds to address the issue.

In the meantime, the district will have plenty of opportunities to come up with a solution, and has already reached out to island interest groups such as the historical commission.

“We might have a public meeting to find the purpose of this building; does anybody see a use for this building?” Lande said. “We’ll assess how old it is, its condition, and if it is of any value to spend money on it.”

“We are just entering this conversation,” he added.

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