Fear in the Fairy Dell

In tough times, even sprites, brownies, pixies and nymphs may find themselves displaced.

Indeed, three wooded parcels along the mythically named Fairy Dell Trail – properties generally assumed to be part of the north-end park, but in fact under private ownership for decades – are for sale as the late owner’s estate is settled.

And Frank Peabody, a longtime park neighbor, hopes the city will step in and buy the parcels, to stave off development or clearing in the sylvan corridor.

“It would be well worth logging,” said Peabody, flanked by some several dozen lofty firs and cedars on the west slope overlooking the trail, last week.

“I feel we need to get going pretty quickly,” he said. “I’m sure the (property) trustee would like to get this over with and get on with other things.”

Peabody met with outgoing Mayor Dwight Sutton last Wednesday. This week, Sutton said he supports public purchase of the parcels and has contacted the trustee to indicate the city’s interest.

“I think it’s worth pursuing,” Sutton said, “and I’m going to see if we can make something happen.”

The Fairy Dell Trail wends about three-tenths of a mile north from Frey Avenue, at the “pond end” of Battle Point Park; signs indicate public water access, and a series of sturdy bridges criss-cross a brook that burbles at the ravine bottom.

Few homes have been built within view of the trail, which has been under the general stewardship of neighbors. Along the trail sits a towering fir trunk of amazing girth, the remains of the “Billy Taft Tree” said to have been named for the 27th president. At the trail end, hikers will find a strip of beach with good views across the narrows.

“It’s kind of a ‘muckie’ beach,” Peabody said, “but it’s just full of sea life.”

How several parcels on the trail’s west slope have come up for sale is a matter of anecdote, lore and the county assessor’s records.

As Peabody tells it, the neighborhood was platted as a vacation community called Venice around 1909, with dozens of tiny lots designated for cabins or tents.

“I imagine it was one of the first ‘get rich quick’ schemes,” he said.

The parcels were bisected by a road right of way that reached the water for a dock. Also included in the plat were three tiny parcels of common space, totaling about eight-tenths of an acre between them, to be dedicated as parkland.

Over the years, the right of way devolved into a trail, and the central ravine came into the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District fold.

But Peabody’s research shows the three designated “park” parcels were sold by the county to a private party for $50 around 1956. They found their way into the various holdings of Paul R. Blugard of Seattle, who died earlier this year.

Peabody learned of the parcels’ sale from a trustee who is settling the Blugard estate for heirs.

Correspondence from the trustee, who did not return calls for comment this week, indicate the parcels will be sold to “at a mutually agreeable market any willing buyer.”

Sitting as they do on the side of the ravine, two of the parcels are believed to be unbuildable. The third, city officials said, would take some “gyrations” in the permitting process to be developed.

An indication of their negligible potential is suggested by the asking price: just $5,700.

Nevertheless, Peabody is concerned that a private buyer would simply harvest the trees and move on. Conceded city Administrator Lynn Nordby: “If you file the right permits, you can cut anything.”

Peabody first approached the park district, but Director Dave Lewis said the district lacks funds for purchase and doesn’t believe the properties could be developed.

“I would not like to see those lots built or cut,” Lewis said. “It just doesn’t seem likely to us that it would happen.”

The Bainbridge Island Land Trust board also declined, Director Karen Molinari said, citing concerns over liability and stewardship.

That leaves the city. While Bainbridge voters recently approved an $8 million levy for preservation of open space, no bonds have been issued yet, and a committee to evaluate lands for purchase has yet to be named.

Sutton said he will take the issue before the city council this week.

“I think it would be better with a few trees standing there,” he said.

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