...while plans for an internment memorial also get a good boost.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:54 PM
"The World War II internment of the island's Japanese-Americans is a significant event in this country's history, and may well deserve protection as a national landmark, said National Park Service personnel who toured the site Wednesday.While the old Eagledale dock itself may be gone, the Taylor Avenue road end itself is still a powerful reminder of the moment.The walk through the narrow corridor of trees has the ability to evoke the feelings of the historical event, said Stephanie Toothman, cultural resource officer for NPS Pacific Northwest Region.The island's Japanese-American community and the Interfaith Council of Bainbridge and North Kitsap are proposing a memorial on the Taylor Avenue road-end. It was there that some 270 island residents of Japanese-American descent were forced to board a ferry on March 30, 1942, and taken to the Manzanar internment camp in California.Bainbridge was the site of the first internment of Japanese-Americans - many of them citizens - undertaken according to presidential order during World War II, ostensibly out of concern that those citizens might be more loyal to Japan than to the United States.Ironically, many young Japanese-Americans served with distinction in America's armed forces in Europe even while their families were interned in America. Both Manzanar and the internment camp at Minidoka, Idaho, where many islanders were later transferred, are now part of the national park system.The Taylor Avenue site has already been informally nominated for designation as a National Landmark, a designation made by the Secretary of the Interior based on recommendations from an advisory panel. The detailed nomination is under review by the park service's Washington staff for possible changes to be incorporated into the formal nominating document.The two main criteria for designation are historical significance and integrity, Toothman said.Significance has been shown, she said. The question will be a demonstration of integrity, because the original structures are gone.While the park service generally has a policy against reconstructions, Toothman said it may be possible to build something that would recreate the experience.We might not be able to rebuild the dock, she said, but it might be possible to build a platform over the water at the place where the internees had their last view of home.The feedback we've been getting is positive, she said.The policy of maintaining integrity may help keep more of the property in public ownership.The memorial proponents intend to erect some sort of shrine or monument to the exclusion event, but putting such a structure on the actual evacuation site cuts against maintaining site integrity.So such a memorial, plus things like parking, would require setting aside more land than the approximately two-acre exclusion site. But the NPS group agreed that such things need to be included.You have some of the most powerful photographs of any site I've seen. I can't imagine not having them as part of an interpretive center, said Neil King, superintendent of the Minidoka National Internment Monument, referring to photographs of the evacuation itself. Rev. Joseph Tiernan of the Interfaith Council and St. Barnabas Church said that the evacuation is only part of the story.That was not only the site from which they left, but also the place to which they returned, he said. So this is also about healing.More than half of the evacuated islanders returned to Bainbridge after the internment order was lifted, reportedly the highest proportion of internees that returned to any West Coast community.William Walters, deputy regional director for the park service, said landmark designation for the site would be consistent with the park service's mission.Our job from the park service standpoint is to tell all America's story - the good and bad of what it took for America to be what it is today, he said. "